One of my favorite stories of the year came from a December visit to a farm in extreme western Minnesota, just a few miles from the South Dakota border. Posted on Dec. 20 under the headline, “On The Farm, Inside The Barn, Gymnastics Rules,” the story was about the home of the Hendricks/Russell-Tyler-Ruthton gymnastics team, located inside a building on the Johnson family farm on the edge of Hendricks (population 692).
Here are the opening paragraphs of that story … HENDRICKS – In this small town near the South Dakota border, gymnastics is a family affair. Before the Hendricks/Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Grizzlies and their state-line neighbors from Brookings (S.D.) High School competed in a dual meet one evening this week, the Johnson cousins -- Greta, Sophie and Kaylee -- sang the national anthem beautifully. Grizzlies coach Sherri Johnson – mom to Greta and Sophie and aunt to Kaylee – then took the microphone to introduce the athletes and coaches.
Gymnastics is close to the hearts of Sherri and her husband Gary, along with Greta, 18, Sophie, 16, Sadie, 11, and their extended family and friends. It’s so close, in fact, that the Johnsons can exit their house in the country and take a short walk across the farm yard to the home of the Grizzlies. It’s called The Barn and it might be the most unique sporting venue in Minnesota and beyond.
Their lives are hectic, and this weekend was a great example. (The family is pictured after that home competition in December.)
On Friday night, the Hendricks girls basketball team (including Greta and Sophie) lost to Minneota in the Class 1A Section 3 playoffs. After the game, the Johnsons drove to the Twin Cities, where the two girls competed in Saturday’s Class 1A state gymnastics meet. Greta, a senior, competed on the balance beam and Sophie, a sophomore, competed on vault and floor exercise.
Neither received a medal after the competition, but they gave it everything they had and were all smiles afterwards. The family was staying in town Saturday night rather than brave the winter storm, and Greta said they planned to relax and unwind. Greta qualified for the state gymnastics meet five times in her high school career, and now Sophie will have two more chances to return.
On a busy weekend of state tournaments, section tournaments and contests in several sports, Greta and Sophie were the epitome of multi-sport athletes. Basketball one night, gymnastics the next night, both in postseason competition. Well done. Girls State Hockey Tournament
Championship: Breck 3, Warroad 2 (OT)
Third-place game: Alexandria 1, Proctor/Hermantown 0
Fifth-place game: St. Paul United 3, Red Wing 2 (OT)Class 2A
Championship: Edina 2, Centennial 1
Third-place game: Eagan 3, Eden Prairie 0
Fifth-place game: Andover 5, Lakeville South 4 (3 OT)State Gymnastics Tournament
Class 1A all-around
1 Aliah Williams, Chisago Lakes
2 Jackson Hegg, Detroit Lakes
3 Jennifer Boyle, Austin
4 Ailsa Gilbert-11, Watertown-Mayer
5 Taryn Sellner, Mankato West
6 Katie Fahrenkamp, WaconiaClass 1A event champions
Vault: Greta Klaphake, Melrose
Bars: Jennifer Boyle, Austin
Beam: Peyton Jernberg, Detroit Lakes
Floor: Cora Okeson, Detroit LakesClass 2A all-around
1 Chaney Neu, Champlin Park
2 Sophie Redding, Henry Sibley
3 Rachel Steiner, Lakeville North
4 Mykaela Douglas, Lakeville South
5 Lindsay Bangs-9, Owatonna
6 Bailey Davidson, Apple ValleyClass 2A event champions
Vault: Sophie Redding, Henry Sibley
Bars: Grace Treanor-10, Wayzata
Beam: Brenna Sommerland, Park
Floor: Chaney Neu, Champlin Park Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn