Cardinals welcome new faces to virtual workouts

The state-wide pause on youth sports is a challenging time for athletes, and the newcomers on the Alexandria gymnastics team are eager to learn the ropes.

Rachel Boyden performed her bar routine on Jan. 2, against Fergus Falls . The senior captain is looking forward to leading a new group of gymnasts when the state-wide youth sports pause ends. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

The Alexandria gymnastics team is trying to get better away from the gym during the state-wide shutdown, while also welcoming a handful of athletes to the program.

Last year’s team had 16 girls on the roster, and with the numbers nearly doubling, it’s up to the returning athletes to help guide that group of newcomers. Rachel Boyden is aiming to be a shoulder to lean on while Minnesota’s youth sports pause keeps athletes away from the gym.

“There’s a lot of new girls that joined,” Boyden, a senior captain, said. “We have 27 or 29 girls on the team this year, and I’m excited to lead the team with my other captain Kelsey (Fletcher). I want to be a role model to all of them and stay super positive so we can lift them up.”

The girls are currently working on bettering themselves from home. While limited, Boyden is attacking the fundamentals of her technique.


Kelsey Fletcher does her beam routine on Jan. 2, against Fergus Falls. Fletcher and Rachel Boyden look to lead the Cardinals as captains following the latest state-wide shutdown. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

“We have a workout through the high school that we all do online,” Boyden said. “The big thing we encourage is stretching for everyone. We also can work on basics, which are handstands or anything else that we can do at home without equipment. Because we will have less time before meets, we have to get in shape now. That means cardio for our routines.”

It’s not just the physical game athletes have to keep sharp, but also the mental side of gymnastics. Keeping a level head has been a focus for junior Ailynn Fettig so far.

“It’s so important for athletes to stay healthy mentally because it’s easy for us to slip into that bad mindset,” Fettig said. “Staying positive and having a good attitude towards the shutdown right now is key. Hopefully, the season starts sooner rather than later.”

Coaches are allowed to hold virtual meetings with their athletes during the pause. Tayler Kauffman is in her second year as head coach and is doing what she can to express positivity.

“We just started virtual practices and are encouraged to do the workouts offered by the high school,” Fettig said. “They know there’s a lot of uncertainty right now, but they want us to keep our heads up and to keep the faith.”

When MN Gov. Tim Walz announced a pause on youth sports, Boyden saw it as a potential blessing in disguise.

“I was bummed out at first, but then I realized it could take it as an opportunity to prepare,” Boyden said. “One of the first things I did was send a message to the team group chat saying ‘don’t be discouraged by the news.’ We can use this time to get ready mentally and physically. That’s what we’re doing.”


Even with all of the uncertainty, there was never a doubt in Boyden’s mind that there wasn’t going to be a season. Now that the Minnesota State High School League is ready to resume sports when given the green light, the Cardinals are looking forward to getting back in the gym.

“I made sure to keep a super positive mindset,” Boyden said. “I knew in my heart there was going to be a season. I cannot wait to get back out there. I decided to train full time this year because I’m so excited. After the first shutdown ended, I was so excited to get back into the gym because I’m not taking anything for granted this year.”

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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