Last season Glenbard West freshman gymnast Sarah DeStefano was in the stands cheering for her cousin Nicole Pagor.
With Pagor now a freshman at Northern Illinois University, the roles are reserved.
There was plenty for Pagor and the Hilltoppers to get excited about Wednesday. They improved upon a strong season opener with 143.10 points to easily defeat DeKalb/Sycamore co-op's 138.40 in Glen Ellyn.
Sophomore Mackenzie O'Keefe, senior Abbie Garchitorena, freshman Amber Broucek and DeStefano combined for 10 scores of 9.0 or better as Glenbard West easily exceeded its 140.45 in the Nov. 20 opener.
"I'm glad (Pagor is) here to support us and it's good to see her. I'm just happy she's here," DeStefano said. "She's a really big cheerer, cheers really loud for all of us, gets us pumped. I was always hoping that we could compete at the same time."
Broucek won all-around and floor exercise, Garchitorena won vault and O'Keefe capped off a great team balance beam set with a first-place 9.45.
Although Pagor and a strong senior class graduated, the Hilltoppers might just find their way back to state. At last season's Glenbard North sectional, Glenbard West and DeKalb tied for second with 144.875 points, 0.5 behind Lake Forest final at-large berth to the eight-team state meet.
"We knew we had more from what we showed the first meet, first-meet jitters and having such young athletes, mostly freshmen and sophomores," Glenbard West coach Carlos Fuentes said. "Going 143 this is where we want to be right now, pushing towards setting ourselves up to do well in conference but also putting ourselves in line to possibly make it back to state."
One reason is all-arounders Broucek and DeStefano and freshman Mia Connolly. All three attended meets last year, and Broucek and DeStefano worked out with several Hilltoppers during the summer at Palmer's Gymnastics.
Broucek, who collected three 9s, didn't score higher than 8.85 on beam in the opener. She scored 9.0 on beam as the team's second competitor after opening with a 9.2 vault.
"I was really happy because I don't do many good vaults like that in practice. It just pops up at the meet," Broucek said.
After vault and uneven bars, the teams were tied at 70.90. The Hilltoppers pulled away with a 35.90 on beam, counting no falls, and 36.30 on floor.
O'Keefe sat out vault after slightly spraining her ankle on the springboard in the opener. Besides winning beam, O'Keefe was second on uneven bars and scored 9.0 on floor.
"Floor wasn't bad. It's just back tumbling (that hurts) and then everything else is fine," O'Keefe said.