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updated: 11/19/2012 9:22 PM

Scouting DuPage County girls gymnastics

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  • Glenbard North's Mariah Matesi performs her 4th place floor exercise during the girls state gymnastics finals.

      Glenbard North's Mariah Matesi performs her 4th place floor exercise during the girls state gymnastics finals.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

By Chris Walker
Daily Herald Correspondent

Top teams: Glenbard West, Hinsdale Central, Lake Park, Neuqua Valley, York. Top returning individuals: Sarah Bradley (Wheaton Warrenville South co-op, Jr., all-around), Cayley Brenk (Hinsdale Central, Jr., all-around), Audrey Channon (Wheaton Warrenville South co-op, Jr., all-around), Sarah Cushing (Neuqua Valley, Sr., all-around), Kaitlyn Daly (Naperville North, Sr., all-around), Meghan Davidson (York, Jr., all-around), Abbie Garchitorena (Glenbard West, Sr., all-around), Kayla Goodwin (Lake Park, Sr., all-around), Jessica Hawken (Hinsdale South, Jr., all-around), Vanessa Henry (Naperville Central, Jr., all-around), Emily Jacobs (Neuqua Valley, So., all-around), Jessica Lewis (Lake Park, Sr., all-around), Jess Malon (Waubonsie Valley/Metea Valley co-op, Sr., all-around), Mariah Matesi (Glenbard North, Sr., all-around), Erin Morgan (Hinsdale Central, Sr., all-around), Mackenzie O'Keefe (Glenbard West, So., all-around), Taylor Patton (Fenton, Jr., all-around), Maggie Phillips (Glenbard West, Jr., bars, beam), Michaela Robert (Naperville North, So., all-around), Kate Rumel (Glenbard South, So., all-around), Karen Sebby (Glenbard East, Jr., all-around).

Top meets: Hornet Invite at Hinsdale South, Nov. 21; Big Purple Invite at Downers Grove North, Dec. 1; Al Galatte Invite at Rolling Meadows, Dec. 1; Candy Cane Invite at Hersey, Dec. 8; Illinois Best Invite at Wheaton Warrenville South co-op, Dec. 15; Panther Invite at Oswego, Dec. 28; Naperville North Invite, Jan. 5; Fremd Invite, Jan. 12; Neuqua Valley Invite, Jan. 12, York Invite, Jan. 19, DVC championship at Glenbard East, Jan. 25; UEC championship at Lake Park, Jan. 26, WSC Silver championship at Glenbard West, Jan. 26.

Outlook: The 2012-13 season looks to be one when perennial powers once again rule the area as Glenbard West and Hinsdale Central, two teams that have had some great head-to-head meetings in the West Suburban Silver over the years, once again look to be the most talented. There's no doubt that the Hilltoppers lose highly skilled gymnastics to graduation every year. They bid farewell to Missy Guzman, Nicole Pagor and Shauna Gialluisi, who helped lead the team to a tie for second place in the Glenbard North sectional but fell short of advancing as a team to state. "We lost five gymnasts in one year," Glenbard West coach Carlos Fuentes said. "It's a whole new chapter and as a high school coach for me, it's nice to reshuffle the deck with a whole new group." Fuentes seems to manufacture rising stars every year, and he'll look to do the same with incoming freshmen Amber Broucek, Mia Connolly and Sarah Destefano. Of course, the Hilltoppers return a great deal of talent as well, led by sophomore all-arounder Mackenzie O'Keefe, who took 24th place in last year's all-around state finals competition, senior Abbie Garchitorena, who will look for a big final season as an all-arounder, and junior Maggie Phillips will give the team a consistent, high score on bars and beam. "Abbie put in a tremendous amount of difficulty in the off-season and is a great leader. She worked under greatness before and now she's going to have an impact as that greatness," Fuentes said. "Last year, I don't think the state saw what Mackenzie is capable of. She was coming off a broken growth plate in her foot and wasn't at full strength for more than half the season." Fuentes believes that O'Keefe could go down as the top all-arounders in program history, which says a lot for a program that's in the running to get to state year in, year out.

Hinsdale Central returns all six gymnasts from last year's squad, including all-arounders Erin Morgan and Cayley Brenk. Seniors Hannah Kapelinski and Annie Zircher also will be key contributors, along with junior Emma Christoph and sophomore Maddie Sesemann, both of whom had success in the state series last winter. The Red Devils also have some depth with freshmen Elle Bergeyin and Jamie Sherlock joining the team along with a few others. "With having a bigger team this year, it will really help with the depth," Red Devils coach Kim Estoque said. "If anyone gets hurt we will have someone ready and willing to step in." The two teams will once again be in a three-team battle with Lyons Twp. for West Suburban Silver supremacy, while York looks to be the up-and-coming team in conference.

The Dukes have state qualifier Meghan Davidson back, but she had surgery during the summer and is still getting back into shape. Coach Steve Geuss expects Alyna Gagliardi to be a huge impact as an all-arounder after missing a great deal of time last year with an injury. Freshman Alison Anderson should be able to step in right away and make an impact, while Kelly Mordini and Krisna Morales have both stepped up their game.

Downers Grove North has been swimming toward the bottom of conference play in recent years, but coach Linda Reynolds keeps pushing her gymnasts. The team's lost some gymnasts to cheerleading but will boast a roster of three seniors, one junior and three freshmen this winter. "It will be another learning year, but I hope to have a few qualify for sectionals," Reynolds said. "I definitely have the greatest kids on my team, they just don't have the most gymnastics experience."

Glenbard North, the lone DuPage County team to advance to the state finals last year, will have to fill the void created by the graduation Amanda Quinn and Melissa Colao. The Panthers welcome the return of standout Mariah Matesi and do have quite a bit of talent as Erin Panhorst, Brittney Posdal, Adina Crawford, Anna Slater and Stephanie Zahaitis return while sophomores Annelise Frank and Shayna Bott are additions. "We have a group of girls that are working hard getting ready for the start of the season," first-year coach Allison Nelson said. "Time will tell just how far we can go." Nelson, a Neuqua Valley graduate (2007), replaces Lindsday Schultz.

Glenbard East looks to have one of its better teams in recent years as the Rams return five all-arounders, including senior Jamie Gradishar, juniors Karen Sebby and Elizabeth Flint and sophomores Olivia Carone and Angela Kerndl. The team also welcomes sophomore Jackie Musial and junior Kaitlyn Costenaro. The team heads into the season with a couple gymnasts battling injuries so the Rams aren't expected to get off to a quick start.

Naperville North sophomore Michaela Robert was an instant success last season, extending her season all the way to the individual all-around state finals. She also advanced on beam and bars. "She will bring her game this year and people will take notice," Huskies coach Chris Stanicek said. Robert is back to lead a Huskies squad that returns senior Kaitlyn Daly, a state qualifier on vault and beam last February. Senior Carleigh Taylor, Allie Pecorini, Tegan Schafer and Shelby Porter are all specialists for the Huskies, some who will work multiple events. Newcomer Stephanie Mueller will also take on a specialist role. Wheaton Warrenville South co-op won't have the consistent all-around scores of Emily Cook and Sarah Deicke any longer, who both graduated. The team does have two experienced returnees in Audrey Channon and Sarah Bradley, but Bradley is finishing off a fantastic diving season and likely won't be at full gymnastics strength until sometime in January. "I think we have more potential than last year overall," Wheaton coach Maureen Latimer said. "Audrey added a new skill set on bars and beam and has put in a lot of work and time in." Sophomore Lenna Klein has decided to return to gymnastics after taking a couple years off so she'll be rusty but has some talent. The team will also count on Julie Galo to compete as an all-arounder and try to fill the remaining holes with freshmen and sophomore specialists.

Last season Naperville Central advanced as a team to sectionals for the first time in five years. The Redhawks have most of that same team back but did lose Logan Hassler. Still, the team has a solid core of Grace Ellis, Vanessa Henry, Brittany Mitchell, Danielle Breeden, Leah Savard and Claire Savard.

Lake Park should have one of its strongest teams in quite sometime as it returns plenty of experience and talent in seniors Jessica Lewis, Kayla Goodwin, Demi Goodwin and Sophia Tobon. The Lancers didn't graduate anyone from last year's varsity roster. "We also have Linnae Capuder back, and she's one of our best beam kids," Lake Park coach Jake Luketin said. "Rachel Fischer is back and she will probably lead the team on bars." The team also landed a prized club gymnast in sophomore Annalise Donati, who could be in the 36-range in the all-around by February. Freshman Jesse-Lee Vanden Eykel is another newcomer who has a lot of potential and may be asked to fill in a hole or two on any event, if not more.

Waubonsie Valley/Metea Valley co-op already knew it would have to find some scores to replace Maddie Strick, who graduated. It didn't know that senior Nina Brandenburg would be lost for the season with a stress fracture in her back. The team will expect a big all-around score from senior Jess Malon but will have a difficult time putting together competitive team scores on the four events. Junior Alexa Puccio and sophomore Marianna Georgiou will likely be two other all-arounders for the team.

Neuqua Valley looks to be among the best in the Upstate Eight Conference. The Wildcats hope to finally get senior Sara Cushing to survive a season without any serious injuries. If she can, the Wildcats will have a very good all-around score each time out, and reduce the burdens on sophomores Isis Ruff and Emily Jacobs (third in all-around at 2012 Neuqua Valley regional) and junior Shania Lim, who all played pivotal roles on last year's team. "We think we should be above where we were last year," Neuqua Valley coach JoAnn Pschigoda said. "We just need to take it slow. They don't have to rush out there and throw the big skills now, so we'll see if we can stay healthy and have some success." Senior Catherine Horsley, junior Allie Winek, among others, will look to function as specialists for the team, while Pschigoda also expected Horsley to take on a senior leadership roll as a captain.

Hinsdale South will have one of the top freshmen in the state as Maddie Nowak joins the program. She's a product of Action Gymnastics in Darien, which is the same club of Lyons Twp. standout Kelsy Kurfirst, among others. Things are looking positive for the Hornets who just two years ago fielded a team led by freshmen. Two of those freshmen, Jessica Hawken and Taylor Daley, are now juniors and will be key to the team's success as all-arounders. Sophomore Lauren Haney also returns for the defending West Suburban Gold champions. "This looks to be an exciting season for the Hornets," Hinsdale South coach Jennifer Fichter said. "Our goals are set high and we are working very hard each day in the gym."

Addison Trail has a new coach in Brandi Kissee. The Blazers top gymnasts will likely be senior Cassie Criffase and sophomore Casey Boksha. Both will compete in the all-around and each is returning from injuries as Criffase broke an ankle and Boksha had knee surgery. "I am very confident that this year's team will do great," Kissee said. "We have an awesome group of girls who all have great attitudes and are ready to work."

Glenbard South coach Lee Wood has been blessed with big numbers, with more than 30 girls in the program this year. Standout Kate Rumel returns after continuing to develop as a gymnast during summer camp, while seniors Zeeo Klug, Amanda Sauer, Tina Atchley and Nia Benel will look to finish their final seasons strong, although they aren't at an advanced skill level. Wood also expects freshman Stephanie Mondragon to be a key scorer once she nurses a dislocated elbow back to health. "It should be a very fun and hopefully competitive season," Wood said.

Junior Taylor Patton is back to lead Fenton. Patton qualified on floor at state as a freshman. The team is senior-heavy with Haley Sabala, Gina Dawson, Julianna LaSala and Jessica Falco all back. Sabala's especially strong on bars while Dawson and LaSala will split events. Falco will fill any other openings while freshman Brittany McCambridge likely will step in immediately as an all-arounder.

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