Douty soars at second straight state tournament; PAS eighth grader solid on balance beam and floor exercise

Pipestone Area eighth grader Kaysa Douty acknowledges the crowd to open the Class A state gymnastics championships Saturday, March 25 at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium. K. Kyle

“All-around, I hope.”

Kaysa Douty’s final words on the 2022-23 gymnastics season were meekly stated, yet pointed with purpose following Saturday’s Minnesota State High School League Class A state gymnastics championships at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul, where the Pipestone Area eighth grader competed on the balance beam and floor exercise.

After qualifying for her first state tournament in the floor exercise last winter, Douty not only earned a second straight state qualification in the event, but added the balance beam to her ever-growing list of accomplishments.

“It felt good overall; it was fun,” said Douty, following her participation in the floor exercise. “I’m proud of my season and happy with what I did up here.”

And what Douty did, as 1-of-3 junior high school athletes in the field of 48, was place 34th on the balance beam and 41st in the floor exercise with respective scores of 8.675 and 8.725. And to her credit, the powerful, pint-sized performer battled through adversity in the latter event to move up one position in the standings from last year’s championships.

“And you know, that’s kudos to her; there was a little glitch with her music, didn’t play properly right away and she had to adjust,” said Pipestone Area head coach Stacie Wallace. “She’s a smart gymnast, had a jump right before that first tumbling pass, a wolf 1 ½, that she needs as an advanced high superior requirement. I said, ‘Kaysa, did you fit that in?’ I didn’t see from where I was in the corner. ‘Yeah, she said, ‘I quick did it before my tumbling pass.’

“Not every kid would think to do that. Her knowledge of the sport and knowing what the requirements are, within a harried situation, she still managed to think that through and do what she needed to do. I’m so proud of her for showing grace and humility; she quietly goes out and competes with excellence.”

Douty’s evening in St. Paul began with the balance beam, where Section 3 gymnasts opened the first rotation of the Class A tournament. Third up on the beam, Douty admitted she had a few butterflies before settling into her routine that features an aerial split leap, a tumbling pass with a back handspring and another back handspring connected with her twisting full dismount.

Pipestone Area gymnastics coach Stacie Wallace embraces Kaysa Douty following her balance beam performance Saturday, March 25 in St. Paul. K. Kyle

“My tumbling pass was pretty good; I didn’t connect my jumps as well as I would have liked, but I stuck the routine and that’s what I’m happy with,” Douty said. “I was still a little nervous, but this time I knew what was going on, what to expect, so I just went out and tried to have fun.”

And as a team, Section 3 can boast not having a single fall on beam – a proud moment for southwest Minnesota gymnastics.

Pipestone Area eighth grader Kaysa Douty performs an aerial split maneuver on the balance beam at the Minnesota State High School League Class A state gymnastics championships Saturday evening at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul. K. Kyle

“You could tell at the beginning of beam there were a few nerves out there; I would be concerned if there were no nerves,” Coach Wallace said. “It’s a big venue and a big day. Once she settled into her routine, she was as solid as she’s been throughout the season… put herself in a good position to do what she did tonight, which was stick it. She’s been consistent in doing that this season. She has great muscle memory for what she’s doing; she not only sticks, but she had great artistry on beam and I think that shows.

“You get into a rhythm with your own team, where you compete in this spot and you have this much recovery after the three-minute touch, and now her team is our section. That’s cool to see them supporting each other so well and cheering each other on and having fun. To see our section team stick, not one fall on beam out of those kids, was really cool to see.”

Following a bye in the second rotation, Section 3 took to the tumbling mat in the third for the floor exercise. Douty was fourth in the rotation and, despite being more at ease with the competition, had a few hiccups that were in and out of her control – dealing with the music issue and losing her footing on her first tumbling pass.

“It’s definitely a different floor than I’m used to and my music was messed up at the beginning, so I had to work through that,” she said. “My first pass wasn’t so good because I fell, slipped a little on my landing, but my second pass was the best I’ve done that one. And my last pass is always a solid pass that I worked well again.”

And it’s Douty’s savvy mental approach and continually developing skills that has teammates and coaches alike believing the quiet competitor will soon be competing at the state championships as an all-arounder.

Pipestone Area eighth grader Kaysa Douty performs a twisting full on a tumbling pass during her floor exercise routine at Saturday’s MSHSL Class A state gymnastics championships at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul. K. Kyle

“It’s funny, we have a quote of the day and we all thought Kaysa should give it today because she’s so quiet,” joked Worthington senior Kelsey Soleta, who placed 28th on the beam and 25th on the vault as well as helping the Trojans place fifth in the team competition Friday night in St. Paul. “Individuals is such a good time because the section becomes one big team, really cool, really fun, and Kaysa’s a great little gymnast and teammate. Oh yeah, she’ll be competing all-around someday, for sure… gotta keep working.”

Whether Douty can add another event to her state experience next winter or push through as an all-arounder will depend on keeping her skills and difficulty up on beam and floor, while adding higher-level skills on the uneven parallel bars and vault to bolster her scores.

“She is as clean on bars and vault as she is on floor and beam, but the level of difficulty that we need to compete at this level means we’ll need to amp up (amplify) in those events and hit all of her event requirements on bars,” Coach Wallace said. “Like I said, she’s a smart kid and she knows that. It’ll be work this summer and in the off-season. We chatted throughout the meet about what skills we might try and think about working on those events.

“That’s what’s so valuable about being up here too, being around great gymnastics and seeing those next steps. She absolutely is a gymnast who can do giants (full extended revolution on the high bar) on bars. A handstand on bars is an event requirement, so by doing a giant you pass through that body position – checks a couple of boxes.”

And in moving forward, the astute acrobat was quick to agree.

“Definitely bars; it’s my weakest event,” said Douty, who will look to get gymnastics workouts in around softball this spring and throughout the summer. “I need to add difficulty and clean up what I have right now a little bit. Maybe I can add another release move, have two or three in my (bars) routine – maybe.”