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Gymnastics: Passeri saw improvement in 2010-11

Entering this season, Rosemount gymnastics coach Jason Passeri tried to temper expectations.

The exuberant coach often gets excited about his team.

With a young, relatively inexperienced squad this season, Passeri had to withhold his enthusiasm. The coach was excited to begin the season, but was realistic in his evaluation of the team in December.

It was going to be a season of growth for the Irish.

Passeri was correct. It was a season of improvement - accelerated, substantial improvement.

"We started with a 132.55 and went to 140.5," Passeri said. "We improved nine points in one single season. It's probably one of the largest improvements we've made in one year."

Rosemount also went 7-1 and placed second in the South Suburban Conference, exceeding Passeri's preseason expectations.

With a new scoring system in place, the lower scores were a reflection simply of the change in high school gymnastics scoring. The new scoring rewarded the top-tier gymnasts.

While the Irish might not have had the top-scoring, elite gymnasts as in past years, Passeri's squad had overall depth.

"It was more of a team accomplishment this year than years past," Passeri said. "We didn't have that one kid that really scored way higher than anyone else. We had a lot of consistent scoring from a lot of people. We had five to six kids contributing every meet. We have some kids that will be in the 37s all-around. When they are older, they will be up there.

"This year was fun because we had seven different kids get a score of 9.0. We went from middle 130s to a 140 team. We hope to be close to mid 140s next year. A lot can change in nine months."

The Irish didn't advance any individuals to the state meet this season and finished fifth as a team at the section meet. Rosemount was often ranked in the top 15 in Class 2A this season.

Senior Kathy Aune and junior Claire Holtz shared the most valuable gymnast award this season for the Irish

Aune was also the academic award and leadership award winner. Aune was joined on the all-conference team by Holtz, Kailey Askew and Abby Nelson. Jenna Schlukebier and Jana Elliot were all-conference honorable mention.

"That's the most all-conference we've had in a long time," Passeri said.

Aune, Holtz, Askew, Nelson and Schlukebier were all-state honorable mention.

One product of the young squad this year should be a veteran, experienced team returning next season. Aune and Paige Henke were the only seniors to compete for the varsity this season.

"We lose five varsity spots with Kathy Aune being an all-arounder and Paige Henke was on the varsity beam," Passeri said. "We're losing five of the 16 spots. We have 11 spots returning. Not a lot of teams can say that next year.

"We were 7-1 in the South Suburban Conference and it went better than we may have expected. We stayed competitive all year and we should stay competitive next year as well. A lot can happen, though, you never know."

Holtz, Elliot, Kelly Rowe and Elizabeth Thooft were named next year's captains.

Nelson was named the team's hardest worker and earned the coaches' award. Elliot was the most improved. Rachel Schow was most valuable gymnast for the JV squad.

Nelson was just a seventh-grader this season. Schow was an eighth-grader. Askew was a ninth-grader.

"We had athletic kids that should improve if they train," Passeri said. "The big thing is the offseason practicing. If the girls put in the time, we can get a lot better."

It doesn't sound like Passeri will be holding back his expectations next winter.