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Gymnastics: Willmar Cardinals have more experience

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WILLMAR

— The

Willmar gymnastics team

is looking for consistency in year two under head coach Torrie Heitzman and staff.

Willmar returns 12 of 16 spots in its lineup from the 2022-23 season. That leaves a sense of optimism for the Cardinals,

who already have one win under their belt when they beat Alexandria 135.025-132.500 on Thursday

.

“This group has worked hard to prove their skills in practice and to be able to show them off in meets,” Heitzman said. “You can expect us to continue to improve and continue to add difficulty in our routines.

“You’ll see some great leadership from our seniors and we’re ready to crush it.”

The seniors on the Cardinals’ roster are Lyndi Koosman, Kylie Porttiin, Audrey Damhof and Maya Nelson. Willmar’s key roster loss is Kim Joneson, who competed all-around and made it to state as an individual in the balance beam, uneven parallel bars and vault.

She’s a vocal and physical leader in our gym. I can’t say enough good things about Lyndi.

Torrie Heitzman

Willmar freshman Mallory Beier performs her floor exercise during a meet against Sartell on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, at Willmar High School.

Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

Lyndi Koosman returns as a staple for Willmar.

She competed all-around in the Class A individual state meet and placed 13th overall

. Her strong junior season also led her to be an All-Central Lakes Conference pick for the uneven parallel bars.

“Having Lyndi back is amazing,” Heitzman. “She’ll be an integral piece to our lineup.

“She’s a vocal and physical leader in our gym. I can’t say enough good things about Lyndi.”

Porttiin returns after a broken foot from swimming and diving forced her to be sidelined for much of last season.

“Kylie didn’t have the opportunity to really compete last season,” Heitzman said. “She did good quality bars routines for us, but those legs events —the floor exercise and vault — she didn’t get back into those lineups, which I would say are her strengths. We’re looking forward to having her back in lineups.”

Willmar vs. Sartell 120822.013.jpg

Willmar freshman Carlee Brown performs her uneven bars routine during a meet against Sartell on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, at Willmar High School.

Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

Damhof joins the Cardinals as a transfer from Iowa and she will be looking to be competitive in lineups. Heitzman says she has been an “awesome addition” to Willmar.

Willmar has a strong sophomore class, including a trio who competed all-around last season. Those three gymnasts are Carlee Brown, Mallory Beier and Mia Koosman.

Brown was an All-CLC selection for all-around and

Beier took 19th place in vault at the Class A individual state meet

.

“Our depth is a little bit short,” Heitzman said. “I wouldn’t say depth is something we have, unfortunately, but our kids that are competing are strong.”

When it comes to CLC meets, Heitzman will not be too focused on the wins and losses.

Willmar first-year gymnastics coach Torrie Heitzman, right, talks to Lyndi Koosman prior to Koosman's uneven bars attempt during a Central Lakes Conference meet against Alexandria on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022 at Willmar High School.

Willmar first-year gymnastics coach Torrie Heitzman, right, talks to Lyndi Koosman prior to Koosman’s uneven bars attempt during a Central Lakes Conference meet against Alexandria on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022 at Willmar High School.

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

“I’m not necessarily looking at the wins and losses, but the progression of our score throughout the season,” Heitzman said. “I hope to be pushing 140 team scores by the end of the season.”

Willmar finished sixth in the CLC in 2022-23.

St. Cloud won the conference and went on to take second at the Class AA state championship

. Brainerd and Sartell tied for second.

The Cardinals are also in the competitive Section 6A with Annandale, Benson/Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg, Litchfield, Maple Lake, MAHACA, New London-Spicer and Paynesville/Eden Valley-Watkins.

The Wildcats have won the Section 6A title in each of the previous three seasons. In 2023,

NLS finished in eighth-place at the Class A state championship

.

With plenty of summer training in the books, Heitzman is encouraged with what she has seen from her Cardinals.

“We came back in better shape than I saw last year, so that was encouraging knowing that they’re locked into the grind,” Heitzman said. “My husband — Mike Heitzman — and our coaching staff bring lots of positive energy, just being themselves. The girls have also done a good job of bringing that as well, so we don’t really go a day without having lots of smiles and good times.”

Willmar vs. Sartell 120822.017.jpg

Willmar freshman Mia Koosman completes some of her skills in her balance beam routine during a meet against Sartell on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, at Willmar High School.

Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

Seventh-graders
– Kinley Newberg
– Camila Oehlers

Freshmen
– Lily Bastin
– Kylie Kowalczyk

Sophomores
– Mallory Beier
– Carlee Brown
– Adeline Engan
– Rheya Glein Erickson
– Mia Koosman

Seniors
– Audrey Damhof
– Lyndi Koosman
– Maya Nelson
– Kylie Porttiin

*Home meets are in bold*

Dec. 7 – Willmar at Alexandria, 6 p.m.
Dec. 16 – Willmar at St. Cloud Crush Invite, 12:30 p.m.
Dec. 21 – St. Cloud Crush at Willmar, 6 p.m.
Jan. 5 – Brainerd at Willmar, 6 p.m.
Jan. 11 – Willmar at Fergus Falls, 6 p.m.
Jan. 16 – Willmar at Sartell, 6 p.m.
Jan. 23 – New London-Spicer at Willmar, 6 p.m.
Jan. 30 – Willmar at Melrose, 6 p.m.
Feb. 1 – Sauk Rapids at Willmar, 6 p.m.
Feb. 10 – CLC Championships at Sartell, 1 p.m.

Michael Lyne joined the West Central Tribune as a sports reporter in May 2022, following his graduation from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he graduated with a bachelors degree in journalism and a minor degree in Spanish studies.

You may reach Michael at mlyne@wctrib.com, or by calling (320) 214-4345.

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