Alli Tran of Vernon Hills proved herself as an elite high school gymnast last season, whe she narrowly missed out on state meet medals on parallel bars and vault.
Those close calls stung, but there's a brighter perspective for Tran these days as she tries to make it back to state -- and this time wear one of those medals.
On Saturday, Tran was standing atop the podium and after winning the bars with a 9.4 routine in the Spartan Classic Invitational at Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook.
"My bars set was pretty good," Tran said. "I put a lot of energy into it. I've been working really hard getting my skills back after the summer."
Tran worked out a couple of days a week during the summer months, but then traveled to Tennessee for a gymnastics camp called Flip-Fest for a couple of weeks.
"It's a mix of summer camp -- fun -- and lots of gymnastics," Tran said. "I did get a few skills that I want to put in later this season."
Tran also managed to find the time to perform in musicals and a play during the fall months at Vernon Hills.
She didn't mind the spotlight at Glenbrook North, taking second in the all-around (36.825) behind New Trier's Kerry Scafidi (37.35) and finishing second on beam (9).
Tran's teammate Hannah McGreevy, a freshman, fifth in the all-around (35.525) with a second on floor (9.575) and third on beam (8.95).
"We have a way of helping each other out between the strongest and the weakest events," said McGreevy about her relationship with Tran. "It helps to get the nerves out, and I feel like a meet is like being in practice."
Rachel Metcalf of Libertyville placed third on the vault with a 9.55, while teammate Mariah Lee chalked up third on bars (9.1) and fourth on beam (8.85).
"I thought my vault was very powerful," said Metcalf, who executed a handspring front vault. "Normally, it's very hard for me to land it."
New Trier won the top spot with a team score of 139.325. Libertyville took second place (133.775) and Rolling Meadows third (125.9).
"It was our first invite for us and we did much better than our last two meets," Libertyville coach Tiffany Owens said. "It's the first meet that we've almost had everyone healthy. It was close to having a full lineup.
"Our vault, bars and beam were pretty good for us."
Kelly Johnston of Rolling Meadows finished fourth in the all-around (35.95), third on floor (9.4) and fourth on bars (8.95).
"We need to implement some new skills," Rolling Meadows coach Michael Costa said. "So we'll need to increase their skills in difficulty.
"I believe a meet like this one will build their self-confidence."
Elk Grove's Amelia Rafferty picked up the fifth spot on the beam (8.6).