NEW ULM - The first meet of the gymnastics season brings with it a number of unique challenges, with gymnasts trying out new moves for the first time in competition and getting used to the grind of competing once again.
New Ulm eighth grader Molly Klimek helped the Eagles rise to the occasion on Friday against Redwood Valley, tying for first place in the all-around category to help the home team open the season with a 127.525- 115.45 victory.
"I was nervous at first, but then when it got to the event, I felt better and I felt confident in myself, and I partially did good," Klimek said. "I think everybody did good, everybody worked their hardest and it really paid off."
Saying that she "partially did good" may be an understatement for Klimek, who had the challenge of adding a back-handspring straddle down into her beam routine, but still finished in second place in the event (7.6).
However, it was her near-flawless floor routine that put her in position to tie with the Cardinals' Ashley Bunting for first place in the all-around with a score of 32.225.
"Molly Klimek's floor routine, she killed it," New Ulm head coach Ariel McFarland said. "She did really, really well. It's not that I wasn't expecting that - I just wasn't expecting that. It was awesome, she did really well."
Klimek did allow herself to depart from her previous modesty when describing her floor routine, which placed her in third place in the event with an 8.525.
"I personally feel really good about it, because it's my first routine of the season and I stuck everything, which I haven't really been doing in practice," Klimek said.
Bunting finished first in vault (9.275), beam (7.9) and floor (8.7), but Kim Berg gave the Eagles the victory in bars with an 8.05, a routine that McFarland said was one of the stand-out performances of the meet.
Emily Gulden contributed solidly in multiple categories for the Eagles, finishing third in bars (7.875), beam (7.475) and all-around (32.075).
Redwood Valley's Abby Schmidt earned a trio of second-place finishes in bars (7.9), floor (8.65) and all-around (32.125).
Rounding out the podium finishers on the varsity side were the New Ulm trio of Kirsten Spaude (second in vault with 8.675), Michaela Howk (tied third in vault with 8.65) and Michaela Otterstatter (tied third in vault with 8.65).
The Eagles won 117-82.05 in the JV competition, with Bergan Forst leading the way with a first-place finish in the all-around (29.7).
Howk and Berg tied for first in the JV floor event with scores of 8.1, New Ulm teammates Allison Lease and Kayla Bollingmo tied for first on bars with 6.7, Bollingmo and Berg tied for first on vault with 8.3 and Forst won the beam event with an 8.2, followed in second by Spaude with an 8.0.
"My JV girls on beam, they rocked it," McFarland said. "My varsity's going to have to learn from them, maybe... Bergan Forst did very very well on beam, I'm very impressed with her."
Overall, McFarland said that there is still room for improvement with the team, though noted that some of the errors could be attributed to early season nerves, especially with new routines.
"I think a big part of this is just the first-meet jitters," McFarland said. "It's just nice to know where we're at pretty much, and I think the jitters is what kind of got to them, especially on beam... It happens, they're just going to have to learn from them... There's some progress we need, it's definitely been a crazy first meet, but I'm glad we got it out of the way."
After her strong showing on Friday, Klimek is looking forward to adding to her early success as the season progresses.
"It feels good," Klimek said. "It feels like a relief that the first meet is over, but there's so many other meets to do good at, too."
The Eagles will get right back into action on Tuesday when they hit the road to take on a talented Jackson County Central team.
"It's a tough one, and it's coming quick," McFarland said. "We have one practice between, and then we're going. It's going to be crazy."