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David Griswold / Forum Communications Co., Published February 23 2012

Return from the ice pays off for Jamestown gymnastics standout

Jamestown, N.D. - Two years ago, Mercedes Westereng stepped off the beam and onto the ice, but it didn’t take her long to go back to her true passion.

Westereng, a senior on the Jamestown High School gymnastics team, attended West Fargo High School – a school without a gymnastics team – so she was forced to choose a different sport during the winter season.

That one year of absence, however, was enough to make her want to return to Jamestown and finish her high school career as a gymnast.

“At first it was kind of hard, because I didn’t have all the skills I used to have,” Westereng said of returning to gymnastics. “Once I got halfway through the season, I started getting everything back again. It was nice to come back and start over again.”

Now, she has become one of the steadiest gymnasts for the Blue Jays, who will compete at this weekend’s state meet in Dickinson. Recently, Westereng posted her best all-around score in a Grand Forks dual. Her score not only was a personal best, but it was the best of any Blue Jays gymnast in quite a while.

“She’s been so steady with high 35s and some 36s,” said Jamestown coach Dave Tews. “Then she put together that 37.1, and when she hit that 37.1, that was the first time in 11 years we had anybody hit a 37, so that was pretty darn good.”

The always-steady Westereng’s role with the team, however, isn’t just measured with what she does in competition. In fact, all three of the Blue Jay seniors’ roles are greater than just their finishes.

“They do a lot of coaching,” said Tews. “They’re not afraid to work with a kid and say, ‘Try that. Do this,’ It has been things like that that have helped some of the younger ones.”

Ashley Kronebusch and Carly Nelson are the other two seniors on the team.

“They’ve all been doing really well,” said Tews. “I think we can easily say that all three are having their best year as seniors, and that’s all you can ask.”

Kronebusch has typically done most of her scoring in the beam, vault and floor exercise, but in her final go-around with the Blue Jays she has been honing her bars routine.

“She has always been very solid on three events, and then bars have been kind of weak for her,” Tews said. “But since Day 1, she has been in the shadow of a lot of kids for a long time. … She isn’t quite like the other seniors where she had that one event that she was really good at as a seventh or eighth-grader. She was kind of even.”

Kronebusch, along with Westereng and Nelson, are qualified in the all-around for Saturday’s individual competition.

“At our last meet we got our highest team score we ever had,” said Kronebusch, who finished tied for third on the vault. “If we can just carry that performance (into today) I think that would be our ultimate goal.”

Nelson hopes for a strong finish for her fellow seniors.

“This is our last year as seniors and we’re trying to step it up to have a good end to our season,” Nelson said. “It will also help out the team. We got our highest score in our last meet, so hopefully we can match that or do better.”

Griswold is a reporter for the Jamestown (N.D.) Sun