DuPage County has failed to send a team to the state finals just once in the past 10 years.
It could be a challenge, though, this season as a few teams from out west should contend for the automatic bid at the Glenbard West sectional.
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St. Charles co-op and Geneva have produced higher-scoring meets than the Hilltoppers this winter while DeKalb/Sycamore co-op also poses a threat. Wheaton Warrenville co-op and Glenbard North are also competing in regionals that will lead into the Glenbard West sectional.
In addition to talent, the Hilltoppers have a lot of momentum and the comforts of home. They picked up invite titles during back-to-back weekends in Naperville and Elmhurst, and they'll host the West Suburban Silver meet, as well as a regional and the sectional.
"We're working hard and trying to get better every time out," freshman Amber Broucek said. "We're just staying focused and concentrating on one thing at a time."
Glenbard North will look to win its seventh consecutive regional championship when its hosts next week.
This one won't come easily, though, as DeKalb/Sycamore co-op likely will challenge the Panthers. DeKalb/Sycamore co-op has surpassed 140 points twice this winter, while the Panthers haven't yet eclipsed it.
"Having competed at Neuqua Valley for all four years I know what going into the regionals and sectionals are all about," Glenbard North coach Allison Nelson said. "It's going to be nice to go against (DeKalb/Sycamore), and our girls are going to have show what they can do and get the job done."
Mariah Matesi, a key contributor to last year's state qualifying team, has led the way all season for the Panthers. Erin Panhorst has progressed into an all-arounder, while sophomores Shayna Bott and Annelise Frank have continued to get better.
"We had an injury last week so Erin has stepped up," Nelson said. "The other girls are working on adding new skills to their routines and are now making sure they show them."
Matesi has the talent to return to the state finals in February, regardless how the Panthers fare as a team.
"From what I heard about last year, she's really stepped it up at the state level," Nelson said. "She's also working some different elements and especially worked hard on beam because she wants to succeed like she's done in the past."
Deep in Wheaton:
Wheaton Warrenville co-op coach Maureen Latimer has been blessed with a deep team this year, and she's needed it. Unfortunately, the team's top scorer, Audrey Channon, will not compete in Friday's DuPage Valley Conference meet at Glenbard East due to illness but should return for the regional.
Grace Erickson, Julie Galo, Jordan Lane, Katie McDonald, Brianna Mulhearn and Brooke Stewart will try to fill the void, along with Sarah Bradley, who has slowly made her way back after diving season and a back injury.
"I'm not sure how conference will go this week, but I know that our team has a lot of ability," Latimer said. "Sarah Bradley is back in the lineup, but she is still working on some of her routines."
Move over Lana and Tina:
Naperville North senior Carleigh Turner must manage her time extremely well.
It appeared as if she might spend her final season as a beam specialist, but she's worked hard and is now also competing vault and bars for the Huskies.
Meanwhile, she's keeping busy outside of the gym as well. She was invited to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in California, but the distance kept her from accepting. She appeared in "I Never Saw Another Butterfly" last fall, her seventh play at Naperville North.
She also writes for "The North Star," the school newspaper, although she hopes to pursue a career in broadcast journalism.
Davidson owns beam:
York junior Meghan Davidson will try to make it three straight trips to the state finals when the Dukes begin state series competition in next week's York regional.
Davidson is one of the top beam gymnasts in the state, finishing in 30th place as a freshman and sixth last February.
This year though, she may make noise in the other events as well. In last Saturday's York Invite, she placed fourth in the all-around with a 35.575.
"I hope she plans on making it on beam, although I haven't seen all the competition," York coach Steve Geuss said. "If she hits like last year she'll be in the running (for finals."
Alyna Gagliardi has also been impressive. Injuries plagued her last year, but she's healthy now and coming off a first-place finish on vault at the York Invite.
"She's hoping to qualify as an all-arounder and would like to go on floor," Geuss said. "She has been inconsistent on a few passes so we're trying to build her endurance."
Contributions from Alyson Anderson, Haley Cleeton, Jennifer Gentile and Kelly Mordini may allow the Dukes to advance as a team to sectionals.
"We should be able to make sectionals this year," Geuss said. "It would be good to see York have that kind of success again."