Elk River High School Gymnastics Coach and Art Teacher Dana Hunt’s Legacy Endures 26 Years After Her Death | Elk River
On September 9, 1995, Elk River High School gymnastics trainer and art teacher Dana Hunt died of breast cancer at the age of 37. More than a quarter of a century after his death, Hunt’s legacy still lives on in the gymnasium and halls of ERHS.
Four months after her death on January 20, 1996, the very first Dana Hunt Memorial Invitational was held in her memory. The invitation, which celebrates 25 years in 2021, features the Elk River gymnastics team as well as other teams in the region, including rival Rogers of Independent School District 728 and foe of Northwest Suburban Conference. Anoka.
The 2020 invitation has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the 2021 Dana Hunt Memorial Invitational, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the 1996 inaugural event, is scheduled to take place on Saturday, December 4 at noon at the gymnasium at Elk River High School.
Hunt’s late husband Larry Hunt said he gets emotional every time he walks past high school. Larry will participate in the 2021 Dana Hunt Memorial Invitational with Dana’s sister, Jacki Schweikert. Larry first met Dana in college when Hunt attended Bemidji State University in the late 1970s. Dana graduated from Osseo High School in 1976 and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of London. ‘Bemidji State in 1980. She was an art teacher at Osseo High School for the 1981-1982 school year before former Elk River High School principal Nick Olsen hired Dana before the 1982-83 school year. Hunt will remain an art teacher at the school until his death.
Larry said Dana has always been a caring person. The Hunts never had children, so Dana treated her gymnasts like they were her daughters.
“Those [the Elk River gymnasts] were his children, ”Larry said. “She always took care of them and wished them the best every time they trained. They always had a pre-meeting before a college reunion to see who was going to be at college. It’s even with the best gymnasts, too. They all had to compete. I was honored to say their names because I made the announcement and tally of all their home games during her time as a coach. They were family. Everyone knew her as a gentle person. She would go out of her way for anyone. We even had it when if someone needed more time to train they would stay in the training room. I would be able to help with what their needs were. She didn’t care. She had no time limit. She would stay there as long as anyone needed.
Dana coached the Elks from 1985-86 until the 1994-95 season. She passed away shortly before the start of the Elks’ 1995-96 season.
In 1991-92, 1992-93 and 1993-94, Dana coached the Elks to three consecutive Minnesota State tournaments. In 1993-94, the Elks won the first gymnastics conference title in school history and the Elks placed fourth at the 1994 state tournament. The Elks also finished in the top five at tournaments. State of 1992 and 1993. Two years after her death, Dana was posthumously inducted into the Minnesota Gymnastics Coaching Association Hall of Fame in 1997. The Elks did not reach the tournament again. State only in 2020, when the Elks ended a 26-year state tournament absence last February. His assistant coaches included current University of Utah gymnastics head coach Tom Farden.
Current Elks gymnastics head coach Jen Bartlett said she did not know Dana personally, as she was still in high school when Dana passed away 26 years ago. Bartlett said the 2021 invite will be important as this is the only time during the Elks’ 2021-22 season that the Elks will face off in the main gym at the ERHS.
“We can’t organize an invite unless we bring all the gear upstairs,” Bartlett said. “We host sections once in a blue moon, but this is the annual event where we can be in the big gymnasium, have quality statewide teams and coaches, and give college kids the opportunity. and JV to compete at the same time and start it early in the season. This is one of the biggest invitations of the start of the season. We turned it from an individual event to a team event, so now it’s team awards and the top ranked team gets the prize. It’s a great team builder for everyone and a great way to start our seasons knowing we can adjust individual skills to improve the team score.
Schweikert said Dana would be so proud of the Elks gymnastics program as he prepares for the Dana Hunt Memorial Invitational as well as the remainder of the 2021-22 season.
“She would be smiling from the sky,” said Schweikert. “The biggest smile ever on his face.”