The Prior Lake gymnastics team will be under new leadership next winter.
Patrick Kloeckner is taking over the program after longtime Coach Barb Kass stepped down after this past season. Kloeckner has been a spotter/coach for 12 years and has served as a Minnesota State High School League judge for the last five seasons.
Kloeckner has been an assistant coach at both Eastview and Chaska/Chanhassen High Schools and has coached at USAG Gymnastics in Grand Forks. He started his coaching career with Martin County Area, a joint program between Fairmont and Martin County West.
Kloeckner said he hopes to build on the success Kass has had with the Lakers "through a positive, hardworking and caring environment in the gymnastics gym and within the community."
Kass led Prior Lake to Section 2AA title in 2013 and a seventh place finish at state. This past season, the Lakers had their state streak end. The program had qualified at least one gymnast from 2011 to 2019.
"The team is extremely motivated to improve themselves as athletes, and I look forward to meeting with each gymnast individually, goal-setting and following a plan to get them to their goals," Kloeckner said.
Prior Lake finished seventh in Section 2AA meet this past season. The team was one young with just one senior, so Kloeckner should have a strong nucleus of talent returning.
"I hope to continue to grow the program," Kloeckner said. "As of right now, there is not a feeder program that leads into the high school program, and my hope is to start that within the next three years."
Kloeckner hopes to do that through the Midwest Amateur Gymnastics Association, which has the same judging and rules as the high school season.
"The current team is growing out of a young team to an experienced one," Kloeckner said. "Many of the returning varsity gymnasts began competing varsity in eighth or ninth grade, so having multiple years of varsity level competition will help their mindset and performance coming into this next season."
Ninth-grader Alex Burger missed qualifying for state last year for the Lakers by one place on the vault. The year before, junior Lydia Pavek was the team's lone state qualifier on the vault.
Lakeville North won the state team title last year for the second straight season and third time in four years while also claiming the Section 2AA crown for the seventh year in a row.