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Tom Mix, Published April 10 2014

Top-notch gymnasts converge on Fargo for Region 4 Championships

FARGO – In recent days, volunteers have been transforming the Fargodome into a venue fit to host one of the country’s premier gymnastics competitions.

Over the next three days, more than 700 upper-level gymnasts from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Missouri will be participating in the Region 4 Gymnastics Championships.

The championship meet kicks off today with the Level 10 Junior Olympic National qualifier beginning at 9:05 a.m. Saturday’s events include Level 9 Junior Olympic Western Qualifier and Super 8 Teams. Level 8 Junior Olympic Regional Placements will be held Sunday. Each level is separated by different age divisions.

TNT Kid’s Fitness and Gymnastics is hosting the event, which was last in Fargo 14 years ago. Meet director Rhanda Laqua said the local gymnastics community has been anticipating the competition for months.

“It is big,” Laqua said. “It is only awarded to select clubs, and for us to bring the event the Fargo is a big deal. It gives us the opportunity to have the highest level of gymnastics that you will see in the seven state region right here in our community. For our local gymnastics clubs, it is exciting to be able to see that level of competition, because we have a small state, and you don’t see that number of kids competing at those high levels as much. … This is a step below the Olympics.”

TNT has a Junior Olympic program, but none of its athletes qualified for the event. American Gold Gymnastics of Fargo has 11 athletes competing.

“It is a great opportunity for our kids,” American Gold competitive director Heidi Tillman said. “Having the Region 4 championships at home gives them the chance to have their family and friends to come and watch. Normally they do not have that support at competitions because last year this meet was in St. Louis and next year it is Milwaukee. They do not really get that home atmosphere very often.”

Fargo South senior Emma Schalow and West Fargo junior Sienna Crouse are competing in the Level 10 Junior Olympic National Qualifier. Schalow and Crouse each qualified for the Junior Olympic National Championships last year. The top seven placers in each age division at the region meet advance to the national competition.

Schalow has been slowed by several ankle injuries this season and may not be able to compete in all four events, which would prevent her from qualifying.

Crouse, who also previously qualified for two Level 9 Junior Olympic Western competitions before her trip to Level 10 national last year, scored a 36.4 at the North Dakota state competition and is being recruited by several Division I programs, including the University of Nebraska.

“Sienna has a very good chance at making nationals,” Tillman said. “She is definitely capable of doing so as long as she has a solid meet. She is one of the best in her age division and is ranked fourth overall in the region.”

Level 9 American Gold gymnasts are: Shannon Doyle (eighth grade, Sullivan Middle School); Reedyn Hansen (Fr., Fargo North), Linnea Jorgenson (eighth grade, Discovery Middle School); and Britany Young (eighth grade, Liberty Middle School).

Level 8 gymnasts are: Alex Baer (seventh grade, Discovery); Maddie Dukart (fourth grade, Phoenix Elementary in Grand Forks); Maddy Ohren (sixth grade, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton); Emily Sterling (Fr., West Fargo Sheyenne High School); McKenna Wettstein (sixth grade, Horizon Middle School).

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562