Reese Norbie and McKenna Thom have been teammates on the Chaska/Chanhassen gymnastics team for three seasons. They are two of the three seniors on the team this winter, along with Kari Wichmann.
A young team in transition after graduating all but five returning varsity letter-winners from a year ago. A program with 18 new gymnasts; 15 of those freshmen.
To say the Storm Hawks have relied heavily on Norbie and Thom, not only for their event scores, but for their leadership, is an understatement.
“Mac is one of the most supportive and humble people I’ve ever met,” Norbie said. “I am constantly pushing myself to keep up with her. What impresses me most about Mac is her ability to lead the team and support every single person. She also works incredibly hard at every practice.”
"I really admire (Reese's) work ethic and resiliency; she's overcome a lot of injuries and has always come back stronger. She's a great role model for the team," Thom said.
When the season started, Chaska/Chanhassen set four core values: optimism, encouragement, trust, and resiliency.
Optimism. Despite giant losses, the Storm Hawks have won all but one Metro West Conference meet — a defeat to top program New Prague — and have fared well in two invitationals. They have topped 131 points in three consecutive meets.
Encouragement. That’s where Thom and Norbie come in.
“I feel like the biggest thing that I did was making sure I was available to answer any questions they had and to let them know they could come to me,” said Norbie of younger teammates. “High school gymnastics is a drastically different atmosphere, so I wanted to just be there for them through that. I work hard at every practice and I hope that the younger girls see that and are willing to put the work in.”
“We had many new girls this season, so we did a lot of team bonding to get to know each other. By the end of the season the team really felt like family,” Thom said.
Trust. In coaches, and in themselves. Both Norbie and Thom have posted recent event scores of nine. Thom did so on floor exercise in a 131.525-123.625 win over Waconia on Jan. 27 for senior night. She won the all-around competition with a score of 33.525, placing second overall on vault (8.5) and balance beam (8.325), and third on uneven bars (7.7).
“It meant so much to me having my friends and family there to see it, especially after doing gymnastics for so long. It was great ending one of my last meets on a high note,” Thom said.
Norbie tallied a nine on uneven bars in a triangular win against Orono and Richfield on parents night on Jan. 25. Two days later, she was event champion on bars (8.8) and beam (8.375) and had a score of 8.325 on floor exercise.
“Getting a nine in high school gymnastics is much harder than it is in club. Nailing a routine and seeing a nine get flashed is one of the best feelings. Getting that score in the gym where I have been putting in work all season really just validates all the hard work I’ve put in for that 20-second routine,” Norbie said.
Resiliency. Norbie was a state qualifier in her first high school season as a sophomore, battling back from two separate foot fractures the year before. She lost a good chunk of her junior year to injury as well, returning in time for sections to place sixth in bars. Norbie returned last week to the line-up after a shorter absence.
“It is definitely all about balance. I think the best way for me to stay healthy is to listen to my body, but doing as much as I can at practice at all times. If something bothers me, I will work on something else so I can constantly be getting better in some way,” she said.
After a near-miss last season, what would it mean to return to state as senior? Chanhassen High School will host the Section 2AA Meet on Feb. 11 in the main gymnasium.
“I would love to go back to state, especially to end my senior year and gymnastics career. I’ll be working hard at practice these next few weeks to try and make that happen,” Norbie said.
For Thom, an all-arounder throughout her high school career, in all four events on varsity as a senior, she posted personal-best scores in every routine in January. She had a score of 33.975 on Jan. 4 against St. Louis Park.
“I try to focus on one event at a time so I don’t get ahead of myself, and if an event doesn’t go the way I’d hoped, I have to put it behind me to focus on the events I have left,” said Thom, who called bars her favorite event.
While the two seniors have been leaders on the scoreboard for Chaska/Chanhassen, others are leaving their mark recently as well. Sarah Person scored 8.35 on vault, Elizabeth Kaufmann (7.775) and Greta Ranzau (7.575) had solid routines on bars, Ellie Wackerfuss had a season-best score of 8.175 on beam, and Madi Edwards (8.25) was a leader on floor.
Aleah TeBrugge was an event champion on beam (8.1) against Orono and Richfield.
For both Norbie and Thom, this season is it for gymnastics. Norbie remains undecided on a college, but plans to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in something related to Biology on the Pre-Med track.