Prospect girls gymnastics season came to sudden halt last season, but the Knights are off to a most encouraging beginning to this season.
It was rough way to finish last year as Prospect hit a school-record 145.02 at the Lake Park sectional but missed qualifying for the state meet by a heartbreaking .225 points.
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The Knights have hit the ground running this season, taking first with 68.8 points at Saturday's 32nd annual Al Galatte Invite hosted by Rolling Meadows. Lake Park took second with 68.5 points, followed by Barrington (68.0), Lake Forest (67.35), and Conant (67.05).
Each team was limited to two gymnasts for each event, and each gymnast was limited to two events.
Junior Gianna Scala (9.7) and sophomore Maddie Larock (9.05) took second and seventh place on the floor to pace Prospect.
"Opening up the way we did, and knowing we have so much room to improve is exciting," said Scala, who tied for fifth place at the state meet last season. "We are excited about our potential."
Prospect suffered an early blow this season with the loss of senior Meggie Kania to a torn ACL. But the Knights have blended their returning veterans with an infusion of youth to jump start their season hitting an impressive 141.05 in their opening dual meet victory last Tuesday.
"Not having Meggie is a big deal, she was such a huge part to this team," said Larock. "We had a lot of girls step up today, and we know where we want to be at the end of the season."
Sophomore Maddie Boldt (8.5) added a sixth-place finish for Prospect on the bars, with junior Jackie Difonzo tying for eighth place on the bars. Freshman Catherine Sokolik contributed to the Knights' effort with a ninth-place finish on vault.
"It's a good confidence boost for the girls," said Prospect coach Randy Smith, "but I know what they have to do for the end result. I'm letting them enjoy the ride right now."
Lake Park offered a balanced approach in securing second place. Junior Shelby Butler (9.0) and Erica Mack led the Lancers by taking fourth and seventh, respectively, on the beam.
"We've all improved this season and we have high hopes," said Butler. "We have a good mix of veterans and youth, and we are all working hard."
Kayla Goodwin (8.65) added an eighth-place finish for Lake Park on the vault, with Rachel Fischer taking 10th place on bars.
Barrington also showed it will be a force this season with freshman Abby Hasanov (9.7) and sophomore Jada Jones (9.5) going 1-2 on the vault to lead a young Fillies.
"We have a lot of talent and we are becoming more consistent," said Hasanov, who used a Yurchenko layout in taking the vault title.
Junior Jessica Lee (9.05) took third on the beam, freshman Molly Blanke (8.55) added a fifth-place finish on the bars, and junior Brook Morgan tied for eighth on the floor for Barrington.
"I think we're blending together really well," said Lee. "We have a lot of freshmen contributing and for us to get third place is really big."
Lake Forest has plenty of experience, and it showed on Saturday. Senior Kylie Carlson (9.4) took first on the beam for the program that placed fifth in the state last season, with senior Katherine McKeon (9.2) and senior Carly Schmidt going 2-7 on the bars and junior Brittany Moccia (9.4) taking fourth place on the floor.
Senior Sarah Starzynski (8.95) took fifth on the beam, and junior Meicie Bennett (8.8) took fifth on the vault in helping Conant finish fifth.
"I'm much more calm this season," said Starzynski, who is looking to lead the Cougars attack that will miss Brie Bibel this season. "That is huge loss, but we have a lot of young talent and we're getting more consistent."
Schaumburg lost senior leader Erin Barrett to a season-ending ACL injury in preseason practice, but the Saxons showed plenty of balance on Saturday. Sophomore Tarah Schomer (9.1) took sixth on the beam, junior Alyssa Vogt (8.7) took seventh on the vault, freshman Alyssa Kriszka (8.7) tied for eighth on the floor and sophomore Samantha Panther tied for eighth on the bars.
Three-time defending state champion Carmel lost three of its stars, including floor exercise state champ Kristin Mirski. But the Corsairs still have two-time defending state beam champion Lauren Feely and defending state vault champion Sarah Cohen-Smith in the lineup.
Feely was in prime form on Saturday, taking first on the floor with a 9.75, while Cohen-Smith (8.9) added a sixth-place finish on the beam leading Carmel to seventh place.
Senior Kari Osowski (8.7) added a fourth-place finish for the Corsairs on the bars.
"We obviously lost a lot of talent, but we're focused on rebuilding," said Feely who will be attending Bowling Green next season. "But we still have a lot of talent, and we're not giving up yet. Individually I just want to go out and hit every single event and we'll see where that takes me."
Senior Becka Feltman-Frank (9.3) paced Stevenson by taking first on the bars. The Patriots lost a good chunk of their team to graduation, including Ali Castriano, who won four state medals last season.
Feltman-Frank will be looking to fill the gaps this season, and the senior certainly made quite a mark on Saturday.
"It's definitely different this season, but we're all working hard," said Feltman-Frank of the Patriots' rebuilding efforts.
Sophomore McKenzie Kehr (9.4) paced Mundelein by taking third on the vault.
The Mustangs lost Lisa Wajswol, who took fifth at state on the beam last season to graduation, but Kehr, who was a state qualifier, is looking to push the attack this season.
"State experience really helped," said Kehr, "I'm feeling more comfortable this season."
Elk Grove's Amelia Rafferty missed qualifying for state last season, but the Grenadiers junior showed she is ready this season.
Rafferty (9.65) secured an impressive third-place finish on the floor to lead the Grenadiers.
"I've been working really hard and looking to be more consistent," said Rafferty, a state qualifier on the floor as a freshman. "Not qualifying last year makes me want to work harder."
Rolling Meadow freshman Kelly Johnston (8.8) made quite an early impression by taking third place on the bars.
"I just wanted to stay focused," said Johnston of her bar routine. "It's still early and I have to keep working hard."
Buffalo Grove senior Jordan Mann (8.9) paced the Bison by taking fourth place on the vault.