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Adrenaline junkie Nisbit ready to help usher in a new era for PIZM gymnastics

The Wildcats graduated a talented senior class that helped guide them to four consecutive state meet appearances, including a runner-up finish last season.

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Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa's Isabella Nisbit performs on the vault during the State Class A gymnastics team championship Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, in the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
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Isabella Nisbit has always considered herself a bit of an adrenaline junkie.

That’s why she and the balance beam -- traditionally labeled the most difficult of the four events in a high school gymnastics meet -- have always been a good match.

“I have a love-hate relationship with it,” Nisbit said with a laugh. “It’s the scariest and one that causes the most mental blocks. But overall, it’s the one that I can count on the most.”

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Trying to perform on a four-inch wide beam, four feet above the ground, calls for a mental toughness few possess. Then, trying to do it at the high school state meet can compound the anxiety. For Nisbit, that’s where she found herself as she straddled the line of that love-hate relationship at last year’s Class A state meet.
The then-junior on the Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa team saw the beam and realized her traditional pre-performance ritual of visualizing herself executing her routine needed a lift. Soon, the song “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus started playing in her head and she couldn’t help but sing it out loud.

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It did the trick.

Nisbit went on to tie for sixth in the state on the beam with an average score of 9.225 on her two attempts. Yet, she lost the tiebreaker to place seventh. The top six finishers advance to the podium. It was a final score that coach Chris Templeton thought was a bit low considering the difficulty of the routine.

But Nisbit took that experience in stride to ensure she has the best possible senior season.

Now she faces a new challenge, one that she says terrifies her just as much as getting on the beam at state.

That challenge? Being the senior captain for a young, inexperienced PIZM team.

“My main worry about this season was trying to fill out the seniors spots because there was a lot of them,” Nisbit said. “It was scary to think that I was going to be the only one and that they were all leaving and I just would have to fill in their shoes and do this all by myself.”

Those seniors -- Sawyer Gorman, Jaci Newman, Brynn Burkhalter, McKenzie Cordes, Eliza Goplen and Alivia Berg -- helped the program reach new heights, collecting four consecutive Section 1A championships and state meet appearances. Fueled by Gorman’s individual title in the floor exercise, that senior class capped a special era last year with a runner-up finish as a team. PIZM's score of 146.025 was just behind Watertown-Mayer/Mound-Westonka (146.35).

But now Nisbit is PIZM's lone state participant returning.

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“It's a big adjustment for her,” Templeton said. “Because, I mean, she was really tight with those senior girls and now, not having them in the gym. It's just, for her, it's a different feel in the gym.”

That’s why Nisbit’s worries leading into this season are understandable.

But Nisbit has still been able to lean on last year's seniors.

She stays in contact with them and has reached out for guidance when it comes to leading this young squad. Their advice has proven helpful so far and though inexperienced, it’s a team that still has the talent to do some damage this season.

“Obviously, we're not going to be as strong as we were last year just scoring-wise,” Templeton said. “But we're working on the old saying, 'we're not rebuilding. We're kind of reloading.'”

“We were a little worried for a bit,” Nisbit said. “But the other girls are really promising. … I mean, (state) is a goal, obviously, like everyone wants to be able to compete at state. But right now we're just trying to focus on growing as a team, trying to grow stronger as a team.”

Nisbit too, is beginning to find her voice.

“(Leading) has been a lot easier than I thought,” she said. “Because once we got in the season, I was like 'I’m not by myself. I have the entire team on my back and we’re all learning this together.' It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.”

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Nisbit is still working on getting into gymnastics shape.

She took most of the summer off to heal an ailing body that had been put through the wringer during her years in gymnastics.

Now she said her body feels good and is ready for her last ride as a Wildcat.

“I’m just trying to prove to myself that I can be the best gymnast that I can and go out with a bang my senior year and try to prove to myself that I am capable of doing what my mind thinks I can do. I’ve just been trying to prove myself right now and just grow stronger as a gymnast, grow stronger as an athlete and just grow stronger as a teammate, too.”

Related Topics: GYMNASTICSPINE ISLANDZUMBROTA-MAZEPPA
Alex VandenHouten has been a sports reporter at the Post Bulletin since Sept. 2021. He loves to go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and just simply being outdoors with his wife Olivia. Readers can reach Alex at avandenhouten@postbulletin.com.
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