Irish gymnasts looking to end state drought

Rosemount clinches second straight SSC title

Rosemount’s gymnastics team has jumped at the chance to rewrite history.

Before last year, the Irish had not won a conference championship in Jason Passeri’s tenure as head coach, which started in the 1997-98 season. Now the Irish have won two in a row. Rosemount’s 142.8-126.675 victory over Apple Valley on Feb. 6 closed an undefeated run through the South Suburban Conference.

The Irish also are likely to be favored in the Section 3AA meet Feb. 14 at Eagan High School. The Irish, fifth in the state Class AA rankings, are the highest-ranked Section 3 team. East Ridge (10th in the state rankings) and Park of Cottage Grove (13th) are expected to be among the contenders at the section meet.

“We haven’t seen East Ridge yet this season, and you’re never sure about the rankings until you’re in the same gym and you’re going against each other,” Passeri said.

Rosemount also wants to qualify as a team for the state meet, something the program has not accomplished since 1993 (the Irish also went to state in 1987).

“We’ve had some good teams recently, but we always ran into a really good team at the section meet,” Passeri said.

This year the Irish have a team that is talented and deep. In a Jan. 28 meet against Lakeville North – where Rosemount scored a season-high 146.825 points – 14 of the 16 individual scores that counted toward the team total were 9.0 or higher.

“We didn’t really have our full lineup for the first five or six meets because of injuries and some other concerns,” Passeri said. “First, we were missing Abby Nelson. Then we were missing Kailey Askew. Then we were missing other kids.

“But we thought we’d be good once we got everybody back because these girls always work hard and they’ve added a lot of skill since last year.”

Indicative of the Irish’s depth was sophomore Meghan Creese’s performance against ninth-ranked Lakeville North. Creese did not compete all-around for Rosemount but won two individual events, scoring 9.5 on both vault and balance beam.

Rosemount’s top three all-arounders took the top three places against North. Eighth-grader Josie Schlie scored 37.65, eighth-grader Shannon McCoy had 37.15 and Nelson, a sophomore, scored 35.775.

Schlie also won floor exercise and uneven bars. Her 9.7 on floor was the fifth time she had 9.7 or higher in that event all season.

The depth has helped raise the level of performance in practices, Passeri said. If one of Rosemount’s varsity gymnasts performs an advanced skill, it’s not long before one of the younger gymnasts asks to learn it, the coach said.

Many of the Irish gymnasts came up through the Rosemount youth program that Passeri also runs but not all of them are full-time gymnasts.

“We have a lot of two- and three-sport athletes,” he said. That group includes junior Rachel Schow, who won two hurdles races at the state Class AA track and field meet last spring.

“We usually don’t come into a season with a lot of off-season training,” Passeri said. “But in those eight weeks we can work with them in the summer, they learned a lot of new skills.”