The three-time defending state champion Carmel Catholic girls gymnastics team started out 2013 with one of its best scores of the season, a 145.625.
Not bad at all for a team trying to rejoin the state's elite with a mostly new crew at next month's state meet at Palatine High School.
But on Saturday at Lake Forest, the Corsairs found a pair of teams ahead of them in that process as the Corsairs managed a third-place finish behind Prairie Ridge (150) and Lyons (149.675), who also posted season-best scores.
"The seniors we have now have seen so many previous gymnasts that were very talented and great leaders that they leaned on," Carmel Catholic coach Nicole Gluzinski said. "So they've realized that they have to step things up and it's on their shoulders now. In this meet they stepped it up.
"There's still a lot of improvement we can make as a team. They just need to go out to do their best as a team, whether it's a trophy at state or an eighth-place in the state meet."
Carmel did lose one gymnast for the year, five weeks into the season, as Cassie Wilson suffered an ACL tear.
Standout Lauren Feely, though, returned from England after a family commitment through the holidays. She finished sixth in the all-around (37.25) but finished with top honors in the vault with a 9.85.
"I definitely had to concentrate on vault after having falls in the other events," Feely said. "That's my event, the vault.
"My awareness and air-sense was a little bit off. It takes a little to get back into the swing of things. Hopefully with the competitions ahead, the sense of pressure will get me back into it."
Sarah Cohen-Smith finished fifth in the all-around for the Corsairs (37.625). She also landed seconds on vault (9.8) and beam (9.3) and fourth on floor (9.725).
Riley Mahoney of Prairie Ridge was the top all-arounder with 38.35; she also won balance beam (9.45). Michelle Cozza of Lyons chalked up first on bars (9.7), and teammate Kelsy Kurfirst landed the top spot on floor with a 9.85.
Prairie Ridge broke the 150 mark for the first time in the program's history.
"I knew that we would see a 150 at some point, but not in this meet," Prairie Ridge coach Lee Bataglia said. "It was just the way they performed out there. They're capable of 150, but I didn't think they would do it.
"We came in with the thought of doing what we had to, each with our jobs. Your job was to hit your routines. We had no control of Lyons or Carmel, of what they could do."
Other scores in the 11-team field included St. Charles North fourth (142.1), Conant fifth (139), Lake Park sixth (135.7), Warren seventh (132.7) and Vernon Hills eighth (132).
"I was proud of what these girls did here in the meet," said St. Charles North coach Amy Lill, who was without one of the team's top all-arounders, Kelly Gorniak, due to a prior commitment. "We did have a tough night on beam, but we came back in our other events and finished out strong in the rest of the meet."