By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
The season hasn’t even begun for the Mankato West gymnastics team and senior Patrice Sorensen is already dealing with injuries.
That may seem like an unfortunate circumstance for those not familiar with the sport, but Sorensen says it’s pretty much a way of life for competitive gymnasts.
“I have shoulder and back issues and that gets frustrating, but I’m not the only one out here in that situation,” Sorensen said before practice Thursday. “That’s par for the course. You just go out and deal with it the best you can.”
Co-head coach Elizabeth Mullikin describes Sorensen as a key asset to the team.
“She’s a positive leader who works hard every day in the gym,” Mullikin said. “She’s had to overcome injuries and pain to compete and that shows her dedication.”
Sorensen began her career as an 8-year old with the Mankato Area Gymnastics School. She joined the West varsity team as a sophomore. Her goals this year are the same as they’ve always been — to try to improve and to try to stay relatively healthy.
Specifically, she’s like to improve her performance on the uneven bars. In preseason practices she’s been focusing on her giants and toe-fronts.
Sorensen, a co-captain, said she enjoys being part of the team and learning and incorporating new skills into her routines. Co-head coach Mark Morphew says Sorensen, sophomore Taylor Amundson and sophomore Cierra Goerish are among the most improved gymnasts from a year ago. Senior co-captain Holly Hankins is also among the key returnees.
“This year we have a large group of newcomers from the club team,” Morphew said. “That seems to happen every couple of years and it makes things more competitive for the veterans.”
Among the top newcomers are junior Rachel Conley, sophomore Maddie Maruska and freshman Miranda Deatley. Their addition has made Mullikin and Morphew optimistic about the season.
Owatonna and Austin are the two favorites going into the 2012-13 campaign but Mullikin believes the Scarlets can challenge for a Top 2 spot. In the section, Waconia, Watertown-Mayer and New Prague are considered the teams to beat but, again, Mullikin said the goal is for West to crack the Top 2.
“We finished fifth in the section last year but I think we can do better,” Mullikin said. “We’ll know better when we get towards the end of the (regular) season.”
The Scarlets open the season Thursday, Dec. 8, against Prior Lake at Mankato’s K&G Gymnastics Center.