Neva Freitag begins her first season as the Litchfield gymnastics coach this season.
The Dassel-Cokato alum spent many years around gymnastics before seeing an ad in the newspaper that the team was looking for a new head coach for this season.
“I've always loved gymnastics,” Freitag said. “I've always been involved in gymnastics. I've got quite a background on it. I competed for 17 years, my dad's on the Olympic gymnastic coach staff in men's gymnastics. I've coached high school, community and club gymnastics. So I wanted to come back and give back to my community.”
After the first few weeks of practice, Freitag said that she wasn't quite sure who the top athletes would be this year. The team has been working hard, so it could be anybody, she said. But they planned to use the first meet as a test, so to speak, to see how everything is and where they will like to go from there.
Senior captains Cecilia Toenjes and Megan Nelson have been captains for the gymnastics team for the past three seasons, so they have become more comfortable in their leadership role. With a group filled with potential, Toenjes would love to see juniors Vail Kaping and Cami Gabrielson step up into leadership roles.
“They haven't been a captain before and when we leave we want them to be as prepared as possible,” Toenjes said “I think so far, they've been doing a good job and they'll get better throughout the season. So that'll be fun to see them grow as leaders.”
Freitag's main focus thus far is for the girls to have clean routines. Trying to keep the team strong so they are able to carry out their routines for a full season and avoid injuries. By staying healthy, the Dragons will allow Freitag to help them do a lot of correcting in form and technique.
“I think we've been focusing a lot on technique this year,” Toenjes said, “which is good. We've haven't been focusing on that in the past as much, so it's nice to see new ways of doing things and focusing on things we haven't thought of before.”
Last season the Dragons took fourth at sections, which was their highest finish at sections in many years. It was capped off by their first winning season in a long time. Freitag believes that this group has the potential to beat last year's high score of just over 133, with the ultimate goal of going for the school record of 137.
Team chemistry is a big factor, Toenjes said, with girls encouraging each other in and outside of the gym. Many friendships have been made from just being around each other, she said. Even though they are with their friends in practice, the girls are still there to work.
“I think our girls have a really positive attitude when it comes to gymnastics,” Nelson said. “They're all here for a reason. It's not just 'my mom's making me do it,' it's because they want to be here.”
There is still more training and correcting that needs to be done to get to where they want to be, but Freitag expects to learn a lot during competition.
“First few meets, we'll just put routines out there and see how it goes and try their best, then go from there," Freitag said.