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Published February 23 2012

Perham senior steps up as Yellowjackets pursue ninth straight state title

Perham, Minn. - Some might not realize Satera Montella’s best balancing act might occur away from the beam.

The Perham senior gymnast had two roles this year. One role was to win meets and advance to the state tournament. The other role was to be a role model to a team comprised of seventh and eighth graders.

With Perham going for a ninth consecutive state title today, it appears Montella has done just fine.

“I guess I find myself coaching a lot more during practice than I ever did,” said Montella, who is Perham’s lone senior. “You are talking to the girls, giving them confidence and telling them what they are doing wrong.”

Having a leader like Montella is needed given Perham’s pedigree.

The Yellowjackets’ streak of eight straight titles is a Minnesota state high school record for most consecutive team titles in any sport.

“I don’t know if they still know or have an idea of what is going on,” said Perham coach Charlie Fleck about his younger gymnasts. “We are coming into the state meet with seventh graders who’ve never been here. I don’t know if they have expectations, and maybe that’s good. It’s hard to tell with younger kids.”

Being in the Perham program since seventh grade, Montella said it’s “weird” to now be the one her teammates turn to for help.

“It’s really different,” Montella said. “Everybody kind of looks up to you, and you have to be a really good role model. It’s kind of hard to make the transition.”

Fleck said one of the things he’s done this year is to treat practices like meets. His goal has been to best simulate a meet environment at practice so when the real thing comes, his young gymnasts aren’t worried.

“We wanted to go into this season and do the best we could,” Fleck said. “From the get-go, no one thought we would get back to the state level.”

Now that Perham is back at state, Fleck is hoping Montella can walk away a state champion. She qualified for four individual events at last week’s section meet, where she won three events and finished second in the all-around.

“She’s one of the better kids we’ve had through the years, and we’ve had a lot of pretty good kids and state champions,” Fleck said. “That’s a tough situation for a senior in high school to work out with younger kids, but she’s managed it well.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com