Thole: Looking in the memory ‘vault’ at the 1982 Ponies

Members of the 1982 Stillwater gymnastics team that finished third in the program’s first-ever appearance at the state meet include, from left, Terri Yurek, Julie Van Ruden, Amy Fournelle, Maria Pepin, Lori Anderson, coach Marilyn Forseth (back), Pam Schoenborn, Kellie Osborn, assistant coach Sandy Madsen (back), Maryellen Thomsen, Teri Kindseth, Laura Ziton, Ann Osborn and Merlynn Thompson.

Members of the 1982 Stillwater gymnastics team that finished third in the program’s first-ever appearance at the state meet include, from left, Terri Yurek, Julie Van Ruden, Amy Fournelle, Maria Pepin, Lori Anderson, coach Marilyn Forseth (back), Pam Schoenborn, Kellie Osborn, assistant coach Sandy Madsen (back), Maryellen Thomsen, Teri Kindseth, Laura Ziton, Ann Osborn and Merlynn Thompson.

My quickly fading memory — for some reason kicked in during a long pause in a recent Ponies gymnastics meet — wandered back to 1982.

This trip down memory lane got started during a break at the Stillwater-Roseville contest when I noticed the names of Terry Kindseth (9.60) in the vault and Kellie Osborn (9.6) in bars listed in the program.

These two received their diplomas 31 years ago and have since moved on, but left their marks on gymnastics lore. I especially remember that 1982 bunch because several were regulars in the Big Red weight room where they excelled.

My good friend Marilyn Forseth was head coach and she was assisted by Sandy Madsen. Forseth, prior to taking over the program at SAHS, had success as the top kick at Robbinsdale Cooper.

I followed the team fairly close that year because I knew the girls and my friendship with the Forseths. Marilyn’s husband Steve Forseth had been our head track coach and was my assistant in football for a dozen years before moving on to Tierney Brothers. He was also the mover and shaker behind our weight program.

The Ponies showed their teeth while dominating the Region 4AA (they were called regions back in those days). Osborn took the vault, floor and all-around, with Kindseth beating the field in the uneven bars. Patty McCallum of Mounds View prevented a Ponies sweep of the gold medals when she prevailed in the beam.

That year marked the first time that the locals won a section (region) title. They duplicated the feat in 1997, 2002, 2005 and 2012. After the smoke cleared in 1982, Kindseth and Osborn, a sophomore, qualified as individuals and joined Ann Osborn, Merlynn Thompson, Julie Van Ruden, Laura Ziton and sophomore Mary Ellen Thomsen for team competition at state.

We were all pumped for our first trip to the big show, set for the Minneapolis Auditorium on March 5-6. At that time, the Burnsville Braves (later changed to Blaze) and Edina (both East and West) were among the biggies. In fact, in the previous years, Burnsville and Edina West each won three state titles and Edina East, Richfield and Robbinsdale each claimed one.

Let me start out by saying that Stillwater posted the top score in the vault (36.61), edging Burnsville (36.52) and Edina (36.32). Even more than six lustrums ago, the Big Red was adept at vaulting. Kindseth (9.53), K. Osborn (9.3), A. Osborn (8.96), Thomsen (8.7) and Thompson (8.6) blazed the way.

Stillwater had the second best showing in the uneven parallel bars where they trailed only Edina (34.98) with a score of 34.76. Kindseth again led with 9.13, Thomsen (8.63), A. Osborn (8.6), K. Osborn (8.4) and Van Ruden (8.36).

Kellie Osborn paced the locals’ effort in the balance beam (33.7), which was third best overall. She managed a score of 8.63, followed by Ziton (8.53), A. Osborn (8.53), Kindseth (8.1) and Thompson (7.46). Kindseth recorded 8.88 in floor exercise and was joined in the event by K. Osborn (8.81), Thompson (8.8), A. Osborn (8.53) and Thomsen (8.5).

When everything was wrapped up, everyone had their unofficial tallies and nervously awaited the results. It came out Burnsville with 142 points to win their fourth state championship, followed by Edina (which returned to one school) as the runner-up with 141.62 and our beloved Ponies were third with 139.88. The rest were Eden Prairie with 136.5, Alexander Ramsey (they are called Roseville these days) 135.02, Osseo 132.9, Brainerd 128.92 and Cambridge 127.33.

During that memorable MSHSL 1981-82 school year, our Stillwater girls won state cross country and slalom skiing titles.

I can’t claim 100 percent accuracy on this column, so 99.9 percent is the best I can do.

Here’s a final note to digest with our trip down memory lane: The 2012-13 edition of the Ponies won the Eagan Invitational on Jan. 26 with a score of 139.25, followed by Mahtomedi (138.5), Eagan (134.8), North Branch (134.55) and East Ridge (132.25).

The Ponies won only one event when Kylie Wittl was a 9.5 victor in the vault — what else? Stillwater again showed muscle with Sidnee Ronsberg placing third (9.35), Maddie Steffl was seventh (9.15), Lauren Thole eighth (9.05) and Natalie Jantschek (8.45).

There is something about the vault with the Ponies, and I rest my case.

Today’s Sports Trivia

Name the former Ponies hockey player who led the University of Denver to the NCAA Frozen Four national hockey championship?

In the huddle

Coach Brian Luke’s boys’ swimming and diving team placed third at the True Team state meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center on Jan. 26. Eden Prairie came out on top with 2,313 points, Tonka was next with 2,159, the good guys totaled 1,815 while Edina (1,690) and Rosemount (1,590) rounded out the top five in the 12-team field. Diver Liam Gibb was the highest placer with a third in his event. Colin Eason, Brady Anderson, Tom Windett, Dom Jankowski and Marcus Green placed 10th or better in the individual events. Green, Anderson, Windett, Riley Hollerbach, Alex Burback, Lucas Magilke, Jesse Busse and Jon Busse did likewise in the relays…. The answer to Today’s Trivia Question is former Ponies star goalie Adam Berkhoel, who had a hot glove in leading the Pioneers to the gold. In fact, he was in the crease for the 1-0 shutout victory over Maine in the championship game…. Ponies tackle Derrick Thingvold (6-foot-7, 240 pounds) will play football next fall at Winona State University…. Sorry to see the passing of former White Bear Lake High School coach Ron Sass at the age of 84. Sass was a long-time head track and assistant football coach for the Bears. His track teams won two state titles…. Don’t tread one me…. finis

Today’s rumination #604

You begin to cut your wisdom teeth the first time you bit off more than you can chew.

• • • •

George Thole retired as head football coach at Stillwater after the 1999 season. He ranks among Minnesota’s top coaches in history with a 285-69-2 record (.805 winning percentage), including four state titles and two state runner-up finishes among 22 championship seasons. He co-authored (with Jerry Foley) “Coaching the Veer Offense,” second edition. His column appears Thursdays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: georgethole@gmail.com

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