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Leaning on seniors

Alexandria gymnastics coach Becca Cederberg looked at her varsity roster coming into the season and saw three seniors and not a lot of experience underneath them.

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Alexandria’s Hailey Ebacher gets high in the air during her routine on the beam in a competition against Brainerd last Thursday night. Ebacher took second in the event with a score of 8.65. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

Alexandria gymnastics coach Becca Cederberg looked at her varsity roster coming into the season and saw three seniors and not a lot of experience underneath them.

The Cardinals don’t have a single junior on the team behind their three captains in Hailey Ebacher, Jana Roste and Hannah Wendel. Luckily for Alexandria, those three seniors have welcomed the opportunity to help lead a team that features three sophomores and the rest of their program consisting of girls in grades seven through nine.
“All three of them were made captains this year so you can tell by that that they’re really great leaders for the team,” Cederberg said after her team improved to 2-0 with a 137.175-130.7 win over Brainerd last Thursday. “I think having all three of them also being all-arounders for our varsity – they’re great leaders. They’re really good kids. It’s quite the group of girls we’ve got this year.”
It’s early, but the Cardinals have proven so far that this season doesn’t have to be all about rebuilding. Alexandria’s win over the Warriors was a nice victory against a program that finished second in the Central Lakes Conference last winter.
They were excited about a 2-0 start, but the Cardinals were more pleased with the fact that they improved their score from their previous meet by more than four points. That progression is the focus of this group as they work to add more skills to their routine to boost those point totals even more.
“I think we’re just trying to make ourselves better as a team,” Roste said. “We know there’s still really good teams in our conference like [St. Cloud] Tech and Willmar. They’re not out of our sights, but I think right now we’re definitely rebuilding our young team and just trying to have great meets.”

EBACHER ADDS DEPTH

Ebacher was a welcome addition to this team after joining the high school program for the first time as a senior.
She’s no stranger to competitive gymnastics after competing with the local club team since seventh grade. That program practices year-round and provides athletes a good opportunity to keep working on their skills if they choose to focus on gymnastics.
“I enjoyed with the club being able to train all year-round, whereas with high school it’s solid for a few months and then you have a bit of an off-season,” Ebacher said. “I’m not in too many other sports, so it was a good year-round thing for me.”
Cederberg called her a huge boost for the girls, both in the standings and out of competition. Ebacher has finished second in the all-around in her first two meets, including a score of 34.4 to finish behind Wendel against Brainerd.
“She’s been a part of our local club program, which a lot of the girls have been, as well,” Cederberg said. “A lot of the girls know her. They know her work ethic and what kind of gymnast she is and what kind of leader she can be for this team…I’m really glad Hailey came out this year. I think she’s having fun being part of a bigger team and taking on some of that leadership with the girls, as well.”

WENDEL’S FINAL GO

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Wendel comes into her senior season hoping to finish off her career with another opportunity at the state meet.
Wendel finished ninth in the Class A all-around standings in 2014 with a total score of 37.050. That came after winning a state title on the vault when she was a sophomore in 2013.
“Last year I didn’t quite reach the goals that I wanted to, but this year I’m definitely really focused on what I want to accomplish,” Wendel said. “A trip returning to the state meet would be fantastic and hopefully we can come back with a medal. That would be icing on the cake.”
Cederberg says she sees Wendel simply enjoying the process of competing this year, even with the lofty goals she has set for herself.
“Hannah is capable of many, many things,” Cederberg said. “She’s a very talented gymnast. She’s a good worker. It’s been fun seeing her this year as a senior taking some more joy in gymnastics. You can watch her while she’s doing her routines and getting ready that she’s smiling; she’s ready to have some fun for her team. She’s really grown into that leader these last couple years and it’s been really fun to watch.”

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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