Gymnast trio captures state titles

Veyda Friend, Zelia Brysch and Jayden Brunner of Northern Twistars Gymnastics in Virginia each won championships at the state gymnastic competitions last month.

VIRGINIA — Jayden Brunner of Chisholm, Veyda Friend of Hibbing and Zelia Brysch of Fayal can now add a new accomplishment to their gymnastics resume — state champion.

The girls, all part of Northern Twistars Gymnastics in Virginia — competed at state late last month and won in several events.

Brunner, 13, became the floor event champion; Friend, 12, earned 1st place honors in the vault and floor; while Brysch took the top spot in both balance beam and floor (first place tie).

Gwyn Roos, Northern Twistars co-owner and coach, said last month’s state meet was the most successful one ever for Northern Twistars.

“I think it’s rare to just have that many in the same year and the same team for us,’’ said Lisa Wobbeam, co-owner and coach. Making it even more special is having all 13 of the team’s Gold and Platinum gymnasts advancing beyond state. She said in years past, it’s been maybe half of those teams moving on. All three Platinum team members also finished in the top six in the all-around competition.

“We had four second place finishes on vault, three second place finishes on uneven bars, three second place finishes on floor exercise and three second place finishes for All-Around,’’ Roos said.

Next up is the Region 4 meet in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on April 23-25. Region 4 includes gymnasts from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. Wobbema added that about six of the 12 Silver gymnasts would have advanced, but NTG decided not to send them because of their young ages.

What is behind the success of Friend, Brunner and Brysch?

Asked about Friend, Wobbema said, “She is just driven and very motivated. She’s a figure skater and she’s used to competing and practicing. I think that helped a little bit for her. ... She just has that competitive edge. She has the overall talent of all events.’’

Brunner “is a performer. I think her personality shines through on the floor, so that’s where she gets her energy from.’’

Brysch “is a go-getter. She’s definitely a leader’’ for only being 11. As far as her ability in each event, “she’s a perfectionist. She knows what she needs to work on and she’ll keep working on it until she gets it.’’

Wobbema added that all of the gymnasts did a lot of workouts on Zoom when the gym was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think out of that they learned to appreciate it more, that they have these opportunities that most kids don’t have. When they could get back into the gym, they just worked harder.’’

Wobbema also believes that new instructor Holland Markasich (an NTG graduate) also helped the girls develop this year.

Markasich knew the girls would have success at state.

“I knew it was going to happen or they’d be really high up there because they do bring in the good attitude to practice. They work hard. They were just ready. We knew they were going to be good.’’

All three of the state champions were a little surprised at their scores.

“It was only my second state, so when I saw my score I was surprised,’’ according to Friend, who said she exceeded her own expectations. “I just told myself that I was going to go out there and try my best, and my best was just good enough I guess.’’

“I was really shocked’’ to win state, Brunner said. “I wasn’t expecting to get a score that high.’’

“I just tried my best and I smiled,’’ the floor champion said.

Brysch said she “was actually really surprised on beam, but I wasn’t really surprised on floor.’’ She added she tends to fall during beam practice, but “then I just stuck it at state. … I was actually really excited because I didn’t really think I got that high of a score on beam or floor, but I guess I did.’’

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