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Long a contender, Lakeville South breaks through for gymnastics title

After years of coming oh-so-close but falling just short of getting to the state tournament, Lakeville South didn't let its opportunity escape Friday, winning the Class 2A gymnastics state championship with a team score of 147.4.

Cretin-Derham Hall was second with a 144.9 and Hopkins third with a score of 144.45.

For the better part of the past decade, Lakeville South stopped just short of the state tournament and watched Lakeville North or Owatonna move on.

This time, the Cougars refused to let another team take what should be theirs.

"I think we've gotten second six or seven times," coach Dusty Rotegard said. "The last couple of years, we've been just a hair short. The seniors were really determined this year to get this far."

The Cougars won despite losing top senior all-arounder Alexa Drew to an elbow injury in early January.

Senior Autumn Schmidt especially elevated her game, and the rest of the Cougars stepped up, too.

"It was just a next-girl-up mentality," Rotegard said. "They never quit fighting."

Rotegard and the Cougars agreed that once they made it to the state tournament, the chance to prove themselves outweighed the pressure.

"There was always a little bit of nerves, but tonight was just kind of fun and relaxing and, I mean, so exciting too," Schmidt said.

It gave the Cougars bragging rights. Finally they are the big dogs in the Lakeville gymnastics community.

"I've been on the team since seventh grade. We just kept pushing to get better and better and better. And finally we, we did it," Schmidt said, giddily. "It's the first time we won state. It feels amazing."