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State championship gymnastics coach Charlie Fleck dies

Charlie Fleck coaches one of his team members in the second year of Perham's eight-year run atop Minnesota Class 1A gymnastics in 2005. Forum News Service
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PERHAM, Minn. - Charlie Fleck, who coached state high school championship gymnastics teams in North Dakota and Minnesota, passed away Friday, Nov. 27, at the age of 70 at Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls, Minn.

Fleck was a 1969 graduate of Fargo North High School, where he participated in football, basketball, and baseball. He was a two-year starter in football, playing as a defensive back and wide receiver; and was a two-year starting guard in basketball for the Spartans. He earned varsity letters in both sports for two seasons.

His baseball play for the Fargo American Legion team, where he was a three-year starter, earned him an NDSU scholarship. Fleck earned his degree in physical education from North Dakota State in 1973.

He taught elementary physical education for the Fargo Public Schools from 1973 to 1995. During his first five years of teaching, Charlie served as assistant gymnastics coach at Fargo South.

Fleck was a teacher in the Fargo school system for 25 years and was the head gymnastics coach from 1978-1994 at Fargo South where his teams won 18 straight region championships, nine state championships and four National High School Gymnastics Coaches Association championships. His teams included 103 All-Americans and seven national individual champions.


In 2008, Fleck was nominated to the Fargo North High School Hall of Fame.

His move to Fargo South put him in contact with legendary coach Jim Simle, the architect of the Fargo-Moorhead Acro program that was proclaimed "North Dakota's Official Goodwill Ambassadors" by Governors Allen Olson in 1981 and George Sinner in 1992.

In 1979, Simle retired from gymnastics coaching with a record of 158-8 (a .951 career winning percentage). Fleck became the head coach and continued the success for nearly two decades. Charlie earned the North Dakota Coach of the Year recognition three times and was National Coach of the Year in 1989.

Fleck moved to Staples in 1995 and attempted to start a gymnastic program there and Detroit Lakes in 1997 but could not find the right fit. He eventually found that fit at Perham in 1998.

Perham’s eventual state championship run started in the wrestling room at the Perham Area Community Center with one mini-trampoline and one mat.

After four years of grassroots fundraising, Perham approved girls gymnastics as a high school sport in 2002 and two years later, Fleck began a run of 11 straight Minnesota Class 1A, Section 8 championships and eight straight Class 1A state championships from 2004-11, a record that still stands.

In Fleck's second year, Perham captured the section title and made the program's first-ever state championship appearance finishing in sixth place.

The following year, 2004, Fleck led his group to Perham's first state championship in any sport.


In his later years after leaving Perham, Fleck ran gymnastics programs in Dent and Underwood, Minn.

A memorial service is planned for summer of 2021.

Robert Williams has been a sports editor for Forum Communications in Perham and Detroit Lakes since 2011.
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