Local fitness camp supports programming for children with special needs

By Detroit Lakes News Staff on Nov 2, 2016 at 6:17 a.m.

Local fitness camp supports programming for children with special needs

April’s Livin’ Fit Camp hosted and coached by April Imholte in October has donated all proceeds of the one day fitness and nutrition camp to FLY TIME, the movement and fitness training program for children with special needs at Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics.

April’s Livin Fit camp’s goal was to empower women to live healthy lives and featured workout sessions and nutrition Q and A and discussion. Dion’s Dangerzone Gym donated their space for the camp, La Barista provided lunch and Imholte and Dahl and Imholte Financial underwrote expenses of the camp so that all proceeds could be donated to Fly Time. Missy Sgro and Alicia Bowers donated their time to assist April at the camp.

Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics in partnership with the Detroit Lakes Public Schools and many generous donors is offering its second year of Fly Time to children with special needs. Kids work through agility, balance, strength and movement circuits during their once weekly Fly Time sessions. Fly Time is currently serving over 100 kids from the DL public schools and continues to work to expand the number of children they can serve.

Jen Smith, Fly Time coordinator at MFG said of the donation, “because of April’s generosity Fly Time got a wonderful gift! The students were so excited to learn there are people in our community that care about their fitness and movement programs. The excitement on their faces was priceless. Thanks April, for being a fitness ambassador and believing that everyone needs to move and succeed!”

Lawrence places 11th at Western Nationals

By Robert Williams on May 3, 2016 at 2:23 p.m.

Detroit Lakes’ freshman and Minnesota Flyers’ gymnast Justine Lawrence completed a lengthy gymnastics season with an 11th place overall at the USA Gymnastics Level 9 Western Nationals in Missoula, Mont., Sunday, May 1.

“I’m very proud of Justine,” Flyers head coach Sith Hansana said. “It was a long season for her. Competing high school gymnastics, being a part of a state champion team, then competing USAG and going to Nationals and placing 11th in the All-Around is a great accomplishment. It shows that an athlete can go a long way with hard work, dedication, and mental preparation.”

Lawrence reached the podium on vault with a fifth place effort scoring 9.525.

“We’re pretty happy with the meet overall,” Hansana said. “That was her first time competing layout vault. It was an awesome vault. Placing as a fifth place medalist at nationals for competing that vault for the first time is a great achievement.”

She placed 14th on bars (9.225), 18th on beam (8.800) and 22nd on floor exercise scoring 9.125.
Lawrence was in fifth place overall heading into her third event, balance beam.

“It wasn’t her best beam performance, but the most important thing was that she stayed on the beam,” said Hansana. “She scored her highest floor score this year at the USAG level for her last event.”

Her all-around score of 36.675 was 0.2 points away from a top 10 finish and better than 18 other gymnastics in the field of 29.

Lawrence made her second appearance at Western Nationals. She placed 43rd in her 2013 debut.

Lawrence overcame a fall on floor exercise to advance to the Western Championships placing seventh in her Level 9 age group at the Region 4 Championships in St. Charles, Mo., Sunday, April 10.

Lawrence and HansanaShe did the same thing in 2013 overcoming a fall on beam to qualify.

Lawrence led the Detroit Lakes high school team winning the all-around title at the season opening Jackie Mann Invitational and made consistent contributions throughout the season culminating a second consecutive state Class A championship for Detroit Lakes cementing the state title with an excellent performance on bars in her final rotation scoring 9.5 to lead DL.

Lawrence will return for her sophomore season to a Detroit Lakes team that had no seniors in 2016.

2016 Level 9 Western Gymnastics Championships; USA Gymnastics, Missoula, Mont.

(Place, Name, Team, All-Around)

1 Jasmine Gutierrez – SCEGA Gymnastics 38.125

2 Elizabeth DeNoon – Flip Flop Gymnastics 37.950

3 Jenna Griffith – Twin City Twisters 37.450

4T Nicole Nebel – Wallers GymJam Academy 37.425

4T Isabella Pretzinger – Arizona Dynamics Gymnastics 37.425

6 Avery Tyson – Crenshaw Athletic Club Inc. 37.275

7 Katie Saladin – Gleasons Gymnastics Maple Grove 37.100

8 Danielle Hoover – Arrowhead Spinetts Gymnastics 37.0508

9 Sadie Livingston – Idaho Elite Gymnastics 36.950

10 Ciello Magsanide – Rainbow Gymnastics Academy 36.875

11 Justine Lawrence –

Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics

Vault 9.525 (5th),

Bars 9.225 (T-14th),

Beam 8.800 (T-18th),

Floor 9.125 (22nd),

All-Around 36.675 (11th)

12 Madison Fassiotto – Oregon Gymnastics Academy 36.650

13 Ashley Fallgren – Westside Dance and Gymnastics Academy 36.625

14 Mykaela Doornbos – Classic Gymnastics 36.575

15T Elizabeth Dahme – Metro Gymnastics Center 36.550

15T Maya Tran – Brown’s Gymnastics-Las Vegas 36.550

17 Rachel Zoran – DK Gymnastics 36.500

18T Chloe Chen – Azarian U.S. Gymnastics 36.450

18T Sophia Kvaal – AIM Athletics Texans Gymnastics 36.450

20 Madison Tramel – Texas Dreams Gymnastics 36.400

21T Chase Farris – Wildfire Gymnastics 36.325

21T Rielly Rittmann – Pinnacle Gymnastics 36.325

23T Carlie Beatty – Classic Gymnastics 36.150

23T Anique Grenier – Adrenaline Gymnastics Acad. 36.150

25 Shannon Buckfield – Iron Cross Gymnastics 35.950

26 Kaysa Lundberg – Metropolitan Gymnastics 35.825

27 Maya Demirchian – GymQuarters Gymnastics 35.800

28 Kendall Huff – Northwest Kids Sports Complex 35.775

29 Aubree Pier – All American Gymnastics 35.575

Gymnastics: Lawrence advances to Western Nationals

By Robert Williams on Apr 18, 2016 at 11:01 a.m.

Justine Lawrence rallied from a fall on floor exercise to advance to the 2016 Western Championships placing seventh in her Level 9 age group at the Region 4 Championships in St. Charles, Mo., Sunday, April 10.

The Laker freshman got off to a big start sticking her balance beam routine


“After beam, I felt pretty good because I made one of my best routines I’ve done in a while,” Lawrence said.

She scored a 9.075, the fourth best beam result of the 16 gymnasts in group. The top seven advanced to nationals with the eighth place gymnast an alternate. All eight gymnasts must score over 34 all-around to advance.

Falls are punished severely by USGA judges. Lawrence scored 8.2 on floor exercise, which was the lowest score of the group and she fell to 12th place overall after two rotations.

“After my fall on floor, I had to work harder,” she said.

“In my mind, she had to hit a couple good vaults here,” Flyers head coach Sith Hansana said.

Lawrence did not have a successful landing in her warmup vaults.

“I thought, well, at least we made it this far,” Hansana said.

Lawrence saved her best for competition scoring 9.1, the sixth best vault.

“She hits the first one with a mediocre vault, then the second one she popped one and just stuck like a dart,” said Hansana.

Lawrence moved up to ninth place overall with her best event, uneven parallel bars, left to make a move for nationals.

Knowing she had to rally from a low score on floor had nerves at work, but she didn’t show it, projecting a calm demeanor but inside, it was a different story.

“Inside I was shaking,” she said.

“She gave herself a chance,” Hansana said.

Lawrence completed competition with the second-best bars, sticking her landing and routine with a score of 9.2, finishing behind only Katie Saladin of Maple Grove (9.325). Marks that put Lawrence into seventh place overall.

“Your body knows what to do; you just have to stay calm,” said Lawrence.

She had numbers that could have put her in the top three without the fall on floor.

“It was one of the best gymnastics routines I’ve seen out of a girl in a long time,” Hansana said. “This was a pressure cooker and she had to hit.”

Lawrence scored 35.575, just ahead of Isabel Bartosh (35.550) in eighth place.

“That’s what I do this and why I coach gymnastics,” Hansana said. “She did everything correct and stuck.”

Lawrence is the last Minnesota Flyers gymnast to advance to nationals doing so as a sixth grader three seasons ago.

Amy Crawford was the first DL gymnast to qualify and won a silver medal on bars (9.250) in 2010.

Lawrence’s qualifying run was reminiscent of her regional performance in 2013 when she overcame a fall on beam (8.3).

The Western Nationals will be held in Missoula, Mont. April 29- May 1,

2016 Region IV Gymnastics Championships, April 8-10, St. Charles, Mo.

(Place, Name, Team, Vault, Bars, Beam, Floor, – AA)

1. Elizabeth DeNoon, Flip Flop 9.350 9.025 9.575 9.400 – 37.350

2. Jenna Griffith, Twin City Twisters 9.325 9.025 9.150 9.500 – 37.000

3. Mykaela Doornbos, Classic Gymnastics 9.200 9.150 8.975 9.025 – 36.350

4. Carlie Beatty, Classic Gymnastics 8.725 8.625 9.275 9.200 – 35.825

5. Maya Demirchian, GymQuarters01 9.000 9.050 8.750 8.975 – 35.775

6. Katie Saladin, Gleason’s Maple Grove 9.325 9.325 8.550 8.525 – 35.725

7. Justine Lawrence, Minnesota Flyers 9.100 9.200 9.075 8.200 – 35.575

8. Isabel Bartosh, Flips – MN 9.025 9.100 8.425 9.000 – 35.550

9. Madison Bronson, WCGC 8.975 8.350 9.025 9.025 – 35.375

10. Felicia Bartell, Jam Hops Gymnastics 8.850 8.275 8.700 9.000 – 34.825

11. Francine Vaughn, Eagles 9.050 8.225 8.450 8.625 – 34.350

12. Audrey Kaufman, TAGS EP 8.725 9.000 7.750 8.575 – 34.050

13. Libby Breider, Air Force Gymnastics 9.150 7.625 8.825 8.250 – 33.850

14.Kaija Ludewig, North Crest 9.050 7.800 8.425 8.350 – 33.625

15. Haley Volstad, Twin City Twisters 9.025 6.050 8.800 9.375 – 33.250

16. Maddie Qualen, Jam Hops Gymnastics 8.050 7.650 8.575 8.750 – 33.025

Lawrence advances to Region IV championship

By Robert Williams on Mar 24, 2016 at 1:22 p.m.

Laker freshman and Minnesota Flyers gymnast Justine Lawrence advanced to the USA Gymnastics Region IV championships in St. Charles, Mo. after a successful state appearance last weekend.

Level 9 gymnasts need to score above 34.0 in the all-around at state to advance. A 34.0 in USAG meets is different than at the high school level due to stricter scoring from the judges. A 34 is comparable to a 32 in MSHSL competition.

Lawrence will be trying to make her second appearance at nationals with a successful set or routines at Region IV. She made her first nationals appearance as a sixth grader.

“I’m working on trying to get bigger skills to get my start value higher and to clean my skills up,” she said.

Lawrence was an integral part of the Lakers second consecutive state MSHSL championship in February competing in all four events in team competition. She scored 9.25 or better on each event and led the team with an important 9.5 bars routine to help DL seal the victory.

“It was really fun and I love having the team and doing it for the team,” said Lawrence.

“High school is really fun with the team camaraderie and how your score counts for the team,” Minnesota Flyers head coach Sith Hansana said.

USAG competition is far more individual-centric compared to the high school season, but according to Lawrence, the school year helped her prepare for the post-season schedule by way of more real-time game experience compared to just working and practicing in the gym.

“In high school, we have so many meets it helped me be less nervous for the USAG meets,” she said.

To advance to nationals, Lawrence will need to be at the top of her game given the level of competition.

“She’s got to at least score a 36,” said Hansana. “There are some really good girls out there. I always tell them it’s a different world. It’s one and done; you get one chance. You have to hit your routines.”

Gymnasts who finish in the top half of the Level 9 group advance to nationals later in April.

Lawrence also battled through adversity this year suffering concussion symptoms at a meet in Bemidji late in the season but rallying to perform in the postseason.

She also took a year off from the USAG schedule in 2015 to prepare for this year.

“I was glad she took a year off last year,” Hansana said. “Physically, it helped her grow and she’s stronger. She’s a machine.”

Lawrence has to be. The training schedule has ramped up after spending four months competing for the Lakers. At a recent practice session, she spent an entire hour working on one turning skill on bars.

Hansana and Lawrence have worked to make up for the time missed over the course of the high school season getting into USAG shape.

“It doesn’t take that long,” said Hansana. “It’s different skills, but not everything is different. You can do the same routine; it’s just a higher standard.”

Regardless, it takes initiative and a little luck to be meet-ready for both seasons.

“You’ve got to have the mentality to do both and you’ve got to stay healthy, mental health, and physical health,” Hansana said.

The success of Detroit Lakes’ gymnastics, both at the MSHSL and USAG levels is a boon to the Minnesota Flyers Gymnasium and Hansana’s business.

“From what the high school has accomplished with state championship, my camps are full,” he said. “It’s really good for business.”

Hansana has consulted with gymnasts from around the region who are trying to get a leg up and compete at a higher level.

Local participation numbers also continue to rise as interest in the sport in DL is at an all-time high.

Lawrence will represent the Flyers gym at the Region IV championships April 8-10 at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.

The Junior Olympic Level 9 Western championships will be held April 25-May 1 in Missoula Mont.

Flyers send a dozen to USAG state

By Robert Williams on Mar 21, 2016 at 10:55 a.m.

Twelve members of the Minnesota Flyers Gymnastic USA Optional Team qualified for the Minnesota USAG Level 6-10 State championships.

The state meet will be held at the Colin Powell Center in Minneapolis March 18-20.

Three gymnasts from Detroit Lakes’ back-to-back state high school championship team, Cora Okeson, Jackson Hegg and Justine Lawrence, will be participating at USAG Level 9.

Along with the three Level 9 gymnasts, MFG qualified four Level 6 gymnasts and five Level 7 gymnasts to the USAG State Championships this year.

This weekend is the Level 6 and Level 7 last meet of the year.

“State Championships is as far as they can go,” head coach Sith Hansana said. “This is their big show for the year.”

The Level 9 gymnasts have a chance to qualify to the Region IV Championships in Saint Charles, MO on April 8-9 with the potential to advance to the Level 9 Westerns National Championships which will be held in Missoula, Montana on April 29-May 1.

Fly Time gives kids with special needs a chance for extra-curricular fun

By Kevin Wallevand on Feb 23, 2016 at 6:50 p.m.

Kevin Wallevand - WDAY News

Detroit Lakes, MN (WDAY TV) – Think back to your days in school.

Recess and Phy Ed may have been your favorite part of the day.

But for those with special needs, extra-curricular time can be frustrating. Options often limited.

In Detroit Lakes, a familiar face is helping break the barrier. Not on the football field, but a gymnastics floor.

It’s Tuesday, and in Detroit Lakes, at Minnesota Flyers, a new program called Fly Time has taken off.

Phil Hansen is right at home.

Phil’s 12-year old daughter Jillian today is tackling a new challenge: this walking board.

Jillian is one of about 45-students who come every Tuesday as part of a pilot program Phil helped start here in Detroit Lakes.

Working with the DL School District, and the Flyers, Fly Time allows those with special needs to flourish.

“You know I kind of consider this kind of the kids’, the special needs kids’, extra-curricular activity. You know, they got traveling teams with basketball and hockey and all that. Special needs kids don’t have all of that.”

Nursing students with M-State come here to learn and work with the students. For the schools, it is an amazing perfect fit.

“You know, a lot of time you see a child with special needs and you think they’re fragile and you can’t move them in certain directions, but you can. They’re just like any other kid, they love to move, they love to jump, they love to run,” said Kristen Carlblom of Detroit Lakes School.

The 45 students coming once a week are the tip of the iceberg of special needs program in the district here in Detroit Lakes, it is a pilot program this year and they hope to grow it and bring more students in next year.

“This is awesome for kids with special needs, they need the movement, that is all,” said Sith Hansana, Fly Time Coach.

4 different groups of students, from elementary to high school take part in Fly Time.

Small Victories with big impact.

TNT Fitness of Fargo helped Fly Time by initially providing ideas and programming help.

M State nursing students add gymnastics program to clinical rotation

By Pippi Mayfield on Feb 10, 2016 at 12:00 p.m.

Fly Time 1Kids tumbling down the trampoline, climbing the wall on a rope, jumping into a pit of foam – sounds and looks like a typical day at the Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics facility in Detroit Lakes.

And it is – with the exception of some very special kids participating in the gymnastics.

These kids are part of the Fly Time program, one that promotes movement and fitness training for children with special needs.

And while the program is helping get kids with special needs up and moving, it’s also helping college students learn more about pediatrics and those with special needs.

M State nursing students are getting in on a clinical rotation this semester that’s like nothing they’ve ever done before – gymnastics.

“This is a very cool program they have going here,” M State student Jessica Cossette said. “I’d love to see it catch on.

“They sure light up and get lots of activity,” she adding, watching the kids jump into a pit of foam squares.

“I’m really glad somebody thought to bring this here,” M State student Brittney Colburn said, adding that every city should offer a program like Fly Time. “It’s getting them moving and their heart rate going. And it encourages independence.”

A gymnast herself in high school, Colburn said she was excited for this rotation in her clinicals – and it didn’t disappoint.

“It really has been fun. It’s a really amazing program,” she said.

M State instructor Angie Mohr said it was Milan Christianson, a psychology instructor at M State, who had talked to Phil Hansen about getting involved with the TNT program, where instructors help kids with special needs get active in gymnastics.

Hansen, who has a daughter with special needs himself, knew of the program in Fargo and wanted to get it to Detroit Lakes.

That’s where the Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics came into play. With a facility and staff in place already, it was the perfect fit to utilize the building during the day when it normally sits empty, waiting to fill up with students after school.

After Christianson heard about the program, he approached Mohr about getting her nursing students involved.

“We are always looking for more exposure to kids, especially with special needs,” she said.

While the M State students’ clinicals consist of dialysis, clinics, hospital, nursing home, etc., the gymnastics portion with children was a fun addition.

“It was phenomenal,” Mohr said of going and watching the Fly Time program in the Flyers’ home building, next to the Kent Freeman Arena and the Becker County Food Pantry.

“I was almost in tears watching,” she added of seeing how much the children enjoy the active time.

For her students, it’s an opportunity to observe the kids and then get in there and play.

“A lot is observation and then interacting as they are comfortable,” she said of her students’ role. “They are looking at individuals and what the kids want.”

She said the rotation has been out of the comfort zone for some of her students, but that’s OK, too. All have come back from a day at Fly Time with rave reviews and positive feedback.

“We check it out and see what’s going on,” M State student Morgan Aakre said of their day at Fly Time.

“I’ve never seen any program like this anywhere,” she added, watching as a wheelchair-bound girl gets to sit on an air mat and bounce using her arms to push herself up and down.

“They are doing physical activities that even surprise me,” Cossette said of the children.

There are 39 M State students participating in clinicals this semester, and three or four spend the day at each clinical location. So, while it’s a fun time, they only get one day at Fly Time. Afterward, like at all of their clinical visits, they have to report back about what they did, what they learned and how to care for the people they spent the day with.

Special to the Flyers, Mohr said the students fill out a pre-survey and a post-survey regarding the program.

“We want to help promote the program to keep it in Detroit Lakes,” she said, adding that not only is it great for the children participating in it, it’s also great for her college students to have the unique experience.

“The big benefit is having access to different pediatric clients,” she said.

While the nursing students visit Head Start and Mahube-Otwa on their rotations also, this is one more day to work with the younger population.

“Here they are guaranteed experience with pediatric clients with special needs,” she said is another important difference with this program. “They normally wouldn’t see these types of clients (in a typical rotation).”

Aside from Mohr, other M State instructors with students participating in the Fly Time program include Brian Kallinen, Susan Risbrudt and Cindy Moore.

For the Minnesota Flyers group, Recreation Director Judy Rue said the Fly Time program has been as much of a positive for them as it has been for the children they are serving.

The Flyers partner with the Detroit Lakes public school district for Fly Time – the Flyers donate their building, and the school busses the kids over for gymnastics.

Kids from each of the public schools in Detroit Lakes participate, but Rue said that more parents are asking if their children can get involved as well. With the positive feedback they have been hearing, Rue said they hope to grow the program next year to more than just one day a week.

“The kids work on balance, agility, cardio, strength,” she said of the various obstacle courses set up for the youngsters. “It’s very exciting watching the kids do these things.”

And while it’s exciting, it’s also beneficial to the kids’ health.

“They are moving their upper body, their lower body, their core. They are developing their social behaviors, too,” Flyers Director Sith Hansana said. “It seems like play , and it is, but they’re activating every part of their bodies.

“I want this to be their classroom.”

Rue said that the Flyers facility has hosted an adaptive gymnastics class on Saturdays, but it hasn’t gotten off the ground quite like this has. Partnering with the schools to get the kids in the doors has been the key.

And with the facility being empty most days until school is out, it’s great for the Flyers staff to have more kids coming through the doors throughout the day.

“This is meeting a need for us and the school, and it’s really great for the kids,” Rue said.

There are 45 kids participating in Fly Time now.

“It’s incredible,” she said of watching the kids and spending time with them. “It’s been really exciting.”

In order to sustain the Fly Time program in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics is participating the Giving Hearts Day tomorrow (Thursday) for the first time. Donations, which will be doubled from midnight Thursday to midnight on Friday only, can be made online at
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New program gives special needs kids new experiences

By Paula Quam on Oct 4, 2015 at 6:00 a.m.

New program gives special needs kids new experiences

A child’s eyes have a special way of lighting up the first time they experience something new and exciting, and thanks to a new program that has just been launched in Detroit Lakes, there are several sets of shiny, happy eyes.

TNT Kid’s Fitness & Gymnastics out of Fargo is known for helping special needs children jump out of their shells and into the world of fitness through gymnastics. It’s been a highly praised program in the F-M area over the past five to six years, but Detroit Lakes and its special needs students have never had a taste of this rumbling, tumbling kind of action. Until now.

Dad on a mission

Detroit Lakes man Phil Hansen is likely best known around these parts for his career in the NFL, but around his house, he’s known as dad. His daughter, Jillian, is a seventh grader at Detroit Lakes. She is a non-verbal, special needs child with severe physical limitations.

“The doctor told me when my kid was born that if you don’t get your kid’s heart rate up, it’s a morality issue – she’s going to die before a normal kid her age,” said Hansen. “My daughter can’t run, so it’s hard for her to get her physical fitness for the day.”

Hansen says he’d heard good things about TNT in Fargo, so one day last year he decided to pop in and check it out. And what he saw, he definitely liked.

“After watching for a while, I asked somebody, ‘Is there any way you could come out to Detroit Lakes and do what you’re doing there?'”

After Christmas, the company contacted Hansen with the idea that they would, for the first time, be willing to expand into another community. They hadn’t done it before, but they were willing to attempt a replication. The catch was it would cost $89,000 to get the program launched in Detroit Lakes.

But Hansen, being involved with the Dakota Medical Foundation, knew a thing or two about fundraising and knew a person or two (or many more) who could help. Before long, he had the money and $6,000 worth of equipment donated.

“So we talked to Minnesota Flyers to see what they could do, we got the school on board and the TNT with the expertise on board,” said Hansen.

In a collaborative effort, the Detroit Lakes School District agreed to pay for busing to get the kids to the gymnastics facility; the Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics Board agreed to donate the use of their facility and fundraise on their own to cover the cost.

The plan would be for TNT officials to run the program for one year, training parents, volunteers and school staff on what to do. Then next year, the DL crew will fly solo and maintain the program independently.

It’s go-time

Tuesday they stepped and wheeled off the bus one by one in three waves – special needs children from both Detroit Lakes elementary schools, the middle school and the high school.

As the next hour went on, they all took on challenges they had likely never seen before. They contorted their bodies, they worked their cores and hips, they jumped and tumbled and most importantly, they tried.

“We work on the physical, social, emotional and cognitive aspect here,” said Nate Hendrickson, chief operating officer at TNT Kid’s Fitness. “It isn’t just the movement, it’s the turn taking, it’s the processing information and making sense of it and putting it to work, the willingness to try and taking the ‘can’t’ out of their vocabulary and putting in ‘we expect you to try, and when you try these things happen.'”

And what happened for little Jillian Hansen was something that meant a lot to her dad.

“I saw something I’d never seen before – I saw a bead of sweat come down her head,” said Hansen. “I had never seen that before, so it was pretty personal for me.”

It was a heartwarming moment for a lot of the adults there who got to witness the looks of wonder in the children’s faces as they tried new, fun things that challenged them.

“Teachers noticed things coming out in the students as they had fun, even personality wise that they hadn’t seen,” said Jen Smith, an MFG board member and special education teacher who is working as the coordinator for the program in Detroit Lakes. “I’m watching Elijah on the trampoline right now; he’s out of his wheelchair, he’s giggling, he’s rolling, and all of that is sensory for him. He hasn’t felt that, he hasn’t experienced that.”

“We have seen smiles, more movement. Things they didn’t think they could do – they could do it,” said Leslie Pladson, occupational therapist at TNT. “One time through and they get the hang of it, and it’s just the confidence we’ve seen that has been amazing.”

TNT staff worked hands-on with students Tuesday, encouraging them and teaching the adults around them as they went.

The goal for those adults is to soak up everything they can in the next year so that they have the knowledge to sustain the program both operationally and financially.

“Eventually we’d like to get more kids from DL, kids from Frazee, Waubun, Perham, Pelican Rapids, all those schools on board to bus their kids here for this,” said Hansen, who knows while this was a big victory to be able to launch this program in Detroit Lakes, there are still many other kids out there who could benefit from their efforts.

“This is just the start,” he said. “This is just a stepping stone.”

Jernberg, Smith headed to USAG Regionals

By Robert Williams on Mar 24, 2015 at 7:12 p.m.


Gymnastics momentum in Detroit Lakes is flying high.

Minnesota Flyers’ gymnasts Peyton Jernberg and Emily Smith both qualified for the USA Gymnastics Level 8-10 Region 4 Championships coming up in April in Green Bay, Wis.

Jernberg will be participating in Level 9, consisting of 20 top gymnasts needing a finish in the top 10 in her age group to advance to nationals in Spokane, Wash.

“I think she could make it; she’s got to hit,” Flyers head coach Sith Hansana said. “You’ve got to peak at state and regionals to make it at nationals for 9’s and 10’s. She’s a competitor. She’s got really strong, floor, vault and beam. Her bars, hopefully she scores all 9’s and she’ll make it.”

A 9.2 or 9.3 at USAG level is roughly 9.75 at the high school level, based on a stricter judging of technique and execution.

Smith is Level 8 and will be participating in her final meet of the year at its highest level at the regional meet.

The two gymnasts are part of the same group as this year’s Laker state championship team, they are just taking a different approach to their gymnastics by competing at the USAG level.

“Most of our high school girls came through the system,” Hansana said. “We’re going to hopefully continue that success and win a lot of state championships. I’m trying to bring the USAG level of gymnastics to high school.”

The two programs have worked together to produce successful seasons on both teams with USAG being far more individual-centric, as opposed to the team competition of high school gymnastics.

Both Smith and Jernberg needed to eclipse a score of 34 overall at state to advance to regionals.

Jernberg’s all around score was 34.85 and she medaled on vault (5th) and floor exercise (6th).

Smith’s all around was 35.475. She medaled on beam (9th).

Class A state all around champion Molly Lyngaas qualified for state and scored 33.575 with a hitch on beam keeping her from being the third DL gymnast at regions. Lyngaas shined on uneven parallel bars finishing in second place and also medaled on vault (7th).

“It’s a long season,” Hansana said. “If you want to go high school then USAG it’s a huge challenge. If she would have made it to regions I think she would have made it to nationals. She’s that good.”

Historically, DL gymnasts Amy Crawford and Justine Lawrence have both advanced to the USAG nationals. Lawrence did so as a sixth grader; Crawford was the first to qualify and did so in her junior season.

To make nationals Jernberg will need to score on the plus side of 35.5, Hansana alluded.

Smith will be competing to set up her chase for level 9 next year.

“We’re going to try to get her to level 9 next year and her chance at nationals,” said Hansana. “These two are the special ones who stuck with me. It’s hard work and sacrificing. It’s about hitting. It’s exciting for them and it’s going to be fun.”

Jernberg made two regional appearances at level 8, one at level 9 and missed last season, after qualifying, due to a broken hand.

“I’m excited,” Jernberg said. “I really want to this year. I want to go before I move up to level 10.”

Smith accumulated her top all around score at state and heads to regions with upgraded goals.

“Last year was my first year of level 8 and was kind of a rough or mediocre year for me,” she said. “This year, personally, it’s been a lot better. My goal is a 9.0 on bars.”

At the completion of both gymnasts’ seasons, they will return right back to the gym to continue year-round training.

“We don’t get a break,” both chimed in.

Hansana, a 25-year gymnastics veteran, is in his sixth year as head of the Flyers Program and is continuing to put Detroit Lakes on the map region-wide.

“I love little towns like this,” he said. “They gave me a pretty good opportunity and we started with low numbers. Now, our numbers are huge. I’d say we’re pretty successful as a gymnastics business right now.”

Upon being hired, Hansana told the district to give him five years and his program would produce a state champion.

“That was my goal,” he said. “Chalk that up. It’s just a big advertisement for our gymnastics facility. I think the community is realizing we’re doing a good thing for the kids. It’s all about the kids.”

The Level 6 gymnasts’ season ended at the state meet. Those all around results are as follows:

Sabrina Ruiz 34.450. Medaled on vault (10th)
Gabrielle Whitworth 34.125. Medaled on vault (8th)
Isabella Smith 33.975
Kaitlyn Peterson 33.90
Jordan Ehnert 33.575
Grace Manning 33.025

Detroit Lakes High School Gymnastics Teams Wins Sections


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!”

Top-ranked Detroit Lakes hangs on for state gymnastics title

By Robert Williams on Feb 20, 2015 at 4:36 p.m.
MINNEAPOLIS – The No. 1-ranked Detroit Lakes gymnastics team set a new state meet floor exercise record in their first rotation and held off late-charging No. 2 Melrose to claim the first-ever winter sports team state championship in Lakers history Friday afternoon at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion.

The Lakers outscored Melrose by less than one point for the Minnesota Class 1A title, with DL posting 150.025.

Both teams split the top score in the four events, with DL scoring 36.925 on bars in the third rotation and 38.350 to set the new state mark on floor.

“It ended up kind of how the girls wanted to have it done,” DL head coach Steve Zamzo said. “I’m excited for them.”

Thia Olds and Cora Okeson were in big spots with anchor routines on beam and bars, respectively, and both gymnasts needed big numbers to keep the Lakers ahead of the Dutchmen.
“They did a fantastic job and came to compete,” said Zamzo.

Both recorded team-high scores.

Okeson scored 9.425 to share the top bars performance with Molly Lyngaas.

Olds landed with a 9.525 beam performance to cap the Lakers’ final event and more importantly did it in front of Melrose.

The Dutchmen were in full view after finishing up their strongest performance of the day scoring a 38.450 on vault, a new state meet record.

“It was big. She struggled a little bit at the end of meets, would fall off here and there, and she just stuck it,” Zamzo said.

“I just wanted to stick it and do good for the team,” said Olds. “This is amazing and I’m so proud of the girls. We did really well all season.”

The Lakers’ 38.350 new state floor mark broke a record set by the 2013 team from Austin with a 38.175.

Alexis Yliniemi led DL on floor with a 9.65. Emma Disse scored 9.625, Lyngaas had 9.6, and Allison Berg scored 9.475.

Yliniemi and Lyngaas led on vault each scoring a 9.5.

DL missed the all-time Class 1A winning team score of 150.4, by 0.375 points. The record was set by the 2005 Perham champions.

“It’s a huge win and it’s very special because it’s the first time DL has been champions,” said Berg, a senior.

DL also performed without seventh-grader Kennedy Hegg, a winner of multiple all-around titles early in the season, who missed the latter half of the year due to injury.

Uneven bars and floor exercise were the difference for DL. The Lakers outscored Melrose by a full point on bars and by 0.775 on floor.

The Dutchmen created a spread of 0.85 points on vault, but only one-tenth of a point on balance beam.

Detroit Lakes finishes the varsity season undefeated and held the top ranking all season.

Team scores: Detroit Lakes 150.025, Melrose Area 149.200, Watertown-Mayer-Mound-Westonka 145.725, North Branch 142.850, Becker 142.825, Austin 142.650, Worthington 137.200, Orono 132.825.

Detroit Lakes individual scores

Vault: Yliniemi 9.5, Lyngaas 9.5, Disse 9.325, Chavez 9.275, Berg 9.1

Uneven bars: Okeson 9.425, Lyngaas 9.425, Hegg 9.075, Olds 9.0, Chavez 8.775

Balance beam: Olds 9.525, Lyngaas 9.475, Hegg 9.150, Disse 9.0, Ostlie 8.8

Floor exercise: Yliniemi 9.650, Disse 9.625, Lyngaas 9.6, Berg 9.475, Okeson 9.4