After years of pats on the back and better-luck-next-years, Detroit Lakes finally completed a decadelong journey to the top of the high school gymnastics heap.

The Lakers pulled out a performance worthy of a championship, starting off with a meet-record score of 38.35 in the floor exercise and riding that momentum to the Class 1A team championship with a team score of 150.025. Melrose, the defending champion, finished second with an impressive team score of 149.2, good enough to win in most seasons.

“These girls have worked so hard,” coach Steve Zamzo said. “It’s gratifying to see them come through with a gritty effort like this.”

For much of the last decade, Section 8 rival Perham stood in the Lakers’ way. In the state rankings, the two were often ranked 1-2, but only one advanced to the state tournament. Perham won eight consecutive Class 1A titles while Detroit Lakes watched.

The Lakers finally broke through and advanced to the Class 1A gymnastics state tournament last year, finishing third. This year, the Lakers started strong and never wavered, besting Perham in the section finals with a team-record score of 151.775.

That momentum carried through to Friday. Detroit Lakes took the lead in the first rotation and never relinquished it, even when Melrose closed with a flourish in the vault.

“We were a little concerned after seeing that, but the girls stayed confident,” Zamzo said. When it was over, he said, the feeling of relief was palpable. “It was kind of a ‘finally’ moment.”

The significance of the victory was not lost on the gymnasts, who were well aware of the years of near-misses.

“This is for all of those gymnasts on the teams before us who never had the chance to get here,” said sophomore Molly Lyngaas, who posted a team-high all-around score of 38.0 in the meet. “And for the little girls back home to who look up to us. They’re all an inspiration.”

After years of striving to reach this point, the Lakers could be forgiven for not planning a postmatch celebration.

“What are we going to do?” Lyngaas asked. “I don’t know.” After a pause, an idea came to her.

“I know: We’re going to get some pie!”