By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
Junior Meghan Dauk is a two-sport athlete at Mankato East, and the two couldn’t be more different.
In the spring, she’s a golfer, relying on the ability to control her nerves and patiently analyzing each hole on the course. During the winter, Dauk is a gymnast, utilizing extended spurts of energy while competing in four physically taxing events.
“There’s not much carryover,” Dauk said. “But I enjoy them both.”
The gymnastics season is just about here, and Dauk is already in her third week of practice with the East/Loyola team. She is the program’s top returning gymnast. If she improves her scores just a little, Dauk has a chance at landing a state-tournament berth.
“It could happen, but we’re in a very tough section,” Dauk said. “I just have to keep trying to get better and see what happens.”
Dauk is learning new skills and fine-tuning those she already knows. Among them are double backs on floor, Gienger’s on bars, back tucks on beam and a layout Tsukahara on vault.
“She’s willing to try new things, and that’s a big plus,” first-year coach Britney Magdal said. “We just showed her a new move last week, and she’s already incorporating it into her routine.”
Dauk said the key is to keep your fear in check: “You can’t be afraid. Sometimes you have to get outside your comfort zone.”
As the only upperclassman on the team, Dauk has become the leader and role model for the younger gymnasts. It’s a role she has learned to appreciate.
“I like helping the younger gymnasts. This is my third year on varsity so it’s natural they would come to me with questions or for advice.”
Magdal appreciates having Dauk back to ease the transition to a new coach. Since many of the younger competitors were not with the high-school program last year, the transition has been fairly easy.
“They’re very receptive to what I’m trying to get across,” Magdal said. “I’m a big believer in presenting the judges with a lot of different skills. I don’t like having all the routines look the same so a lot of people are learning new skills.”
Magdal was an all-state performer at Champlin Park and competed for a year at Wisconsin-Stout. She then transferred to Hamline but suffered a broken ankle that effectively ended her competitive career.
She was the director of the Mankato Area Gymnastics School last year and then applied for the East/Loyola job when it opened. She hopes to stay in coaching for a long time.
As for the Cougars, the roster is filled with five seventh-graders, one eighth-grader and five freshmen. In addition to Dauk, Magdal expects ninth-grader Leah Shields, eighth-grader Josie Borneke and ninth-grader Emily Altenburg to be among the team’s most consistent scorers.
“Right now everybody is an all-arounder,” Magdal said. “As we get going, we may be able to identify some specialists who can help us.”
East/Loyola begins the season Saturday when it competes in an invitational at Mankato’s K&G Gymnastics Center.