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updated: 2/5/2010 12:46 AM

St. Edward's Madden sisters flourish in support of each other

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  • Sisters Jordyn and Abby Madden of St. Edward have had great success in high school gymnastics meets this season.

      Sisters Jordyn and Abby Madden of St. Edward have had great success in high school gymnastics meets this season.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

By Mike Miazga

Imagine this.

A couple of high school football players go to an opposing school and attempt to practice with the opposition.

How would that go over? Probably not so well.

But for St. Edward girls gymnastics stars and sisters Jordyn and Abby Madden, that exact scenario has played out quite differently.

Because St. Edward does not have a girls gymnastics team, Madden's parents had to find an outside coach and a facility to practice at during the high school season.

Their search led them to Batavia High School and Bulldogs assistant coach Doug Bucholz (who also coaches at Excel Gymnastics in St. Charles). The Madden sisters, coached by Bucholz, practice with the Batavia team and then follow them to meets where they compete as individuals.

The arrangement could not have turned out any better.

"I'm really good friends with them," said Jordyn. "My sister was really nervous about it (practicing with Batavia), but she's become close with them, too. They have welcomed us in as teammates. I feel like I am part of the team. If they have team get-togethers, they invite us over. They make different scarves and they've made scarves for us in our school colors. It's awesome."

Abby Madden remembers her first high school meet from earlier this season.

"I was so nervous," said Abby. "I didn't really know any of them. But they welcomed us and gave us candy in bags. They supported us and cheered us. We're very good friends with them."

Erin Madden, the sisters' mother, also recalls a time when Jordyn was on the vault with the Batavia contingent present.

"They are all cheering her like they had known her their whole life," said Erin Madden, a St. Edward graduate. "Those girls have been very encouraging, which is nice."

"Batavia gives them that team feel," said Bucholz. "The Batavia girls have taken them in with open arms. They are always included."

The Batavia friendship has helped the Madden sisters write the next chapter in their already successful youth gymnastics careers. Abby Madden, just a freshman, recently won the all-around title at the Schaumburg regional (second on vault and floor), while Jordyn, who took eighth in the state on vault last year as a freshman, was third in the all-around and won the beam title. The St. Charles residents will compete in Monday's Schaumburg sectional (both sisters in the all-around; Abby in 4 individual events and Jordyn, as of press time, in 3 individual events) where berths to the state finals will be on the line.

In terms of team success, they've kind of enjoyed that as well. The sisters unofficially won an invitational team title earlier this year at Niles West-with a team comprised of only themselves. However, the rules of the invitational stated a team needed 3 gymnasts to qualify for team honors.

"I couldn't be prouder of what the girls have done," said Erin Madden, who also praised the help of Batavia head coach Taryn Boyce and St. Edward football and softball coach Mike Rolando (who has filled in as the sisters' coach during several meets this year that Bucholz could not attend).

"I never thought we'd get to where we are doing all of this. We always took it year to year."

Erin Madden said the gymnastics bug infiltrated the family (Jordyn and Abby's younger sister, Sarah, is a Level 8 gymnast and is in the seventh grade at St. Thomas More in Elgin) after watching her niece compete in gymnastics.

"I got them all involved in that," said Erin Madden, who noted her brother's daughter (Madison O'Connor) is a Level 8 gymnast (Jordyn's senior year will feature the three Madden sisters and O'Connor, giving St. Edward enough gymnasts for a bona fide team).

For years, both Jordyn and Abby competed at the competitive gymnastics (club) level out of the Bartlett Gymnastics Center (while both girls no longer compete for Bartlett, Erin Madden praised the center for their work with her daughters). Both girls are classified as Level 9 gymnasts.

But their story has an interesting twist to it. Both no longer compete at the competitive level, and instead have focused on the high school season and other sports (they both play multiple sports at St. Edward).

"High school is really laid back. It's not as stressful (as competitive gymnastics)," said Jordyn. "I still see a lot of girls I did club with at the different (high school meets). That makes it more relaxing and fun. Competitive (gymnastics) is really hard."

"I was used to getting nervous in meets. I was a Level 9. It was difficult," said Abby, who has not ruled out a return to competitive gymnastics. "High school is really relaxed and not as hard."

With two talented and successful gymnasts in the same family and only a year apart in school, the natural rivalry question comes into play.

But not with this tag team.

"It's in a good way," said Jordyn. "If Abby does well in an event, I try to do as good as she does. If I do well, I don't want her to fail. I want her to do well. We push each other. If she does well and I do bad, she's not happy about it (Abby doing poorly). We've done gymnastics our whole lives and have spent a lot of time together. I'm very close with her. I love having her with me. She pushes me to do certain skills I didn't think I would be able to do. She gets me through things."

"We always help each other. We've always been together. It's natural," said Abby. "If I get a good score, I want her to get a good score. We try to beat each other, but it's not in a bad way. I want her to get a good score and do well."

Gymnastics has also helped the girls with a natural progression into other sports.

"You train hard and get strong. That's fun for me," said Abby, who played volleyball at St. Edward earlier this year and is considering soccer in the spring (Jordyn also does volleyball and soccer). "Gymnastics makes me really athletic."

While gymnastics has been their calling card, the sisters are also quite accomplished in the classroom where both have earned straight As.

"Gymnastics has helped me get straight As," said Jordyn. "When I come home, I know I have other things going on. I know I have to get my homework done right after school. I try and get the work done before I go to gymnastics."

"They sit down and do their homework because they know they are going to be at the gym all night," said Erin Madden. "Gymnastics keeps them focused. I truly believe the sport makes you strong physically and mentally."

Both sisters are focused on the remainder of the postseason with a specific goal to be present and competing in the state finals at Feb. 19-20 at Palatine High School.

And with the skills, focus and determination they possess, plus a little encouragement from their friends to the south, that goal sure looks like one that will happen.

"This year has been a big improvement for Jordyn. She's working well under pressure," said Bucholz. "Abby, this is her first year in. She's refined her routines and has been very strong.

"Hopefully they move on to state and do it together. That would be great for them."

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