Scouting MSL girls gymnastics
Where: Palatine High School
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Teams to watch: Fremd was teetering on the edge at its final conference triangular on Jan. 9. The Vikings had just watched senior leader Stephanie Gallo season's end with an ACL injury, and this was after losing top returning all-around gymnast senior Shannon Lemajeur to an ACL injury before the season began. Senior Emily Pinderski followed Gallo on the floor with a group of teary-eyed Vikings watching. Pinderski delivered big time, taking fourth, but more importantly giving the Vikings an emotional lift that carried them to their second-best team score of the season three days later at the Fremd Invitational. Now the Vikings are looking to carry that momentum into the postseason, starting with the Mid-Suburban League meet on Friday. "I think it's our job to finish it for Steph and Shannon," said Fremd first-year coach Elise Ference of her two injured seniors. "The kids are motivated and they continue to respond and pick up the pieces." Pinderski is joined by junior Christine Jensen, sophomore Sydney Plichta, and sophomore Christine Radochonski forming the core of a very deep and talented Vikings attack. Fremd has consistently been hitting above 145 for most of the season, notching a 148.55 in early December.
The Viking will be tough to beat, but Prospect has been charging hard all season. Junior Gianna Scala and sophomore Maddie Larock give the Knights a powerful 1-2 punch. "On any given day either one could be our number one, it takes the pressure off," said Prospect coach Randy Smith. Prospect hit a season best 142.85 on Jan. 12 and the Knights are looking to climb higher this postseason. The Knights are counting on Jackie Difonzo and sophomore Maddie Boldt to add to the attack. Palatine, Barrington, Conant, and Schaumburg have all posted big scores this season, but they have also been hit with some big injuries. Senior Abby Alden has powered Palatine, and will look to push the host Pirates on Friday. Freshman Abby Hassanov has had an impressive debut season and leads a young Barrington squad. Freshman Caiti Poland has come on strong to pace Schaumburg. Junior Meicie Bennett has stabilized an emerging Conant attack.
Gianna Scala (Prospect): The two-time defending MSL floor champion is an all-around threat. The junior seems to be peaking at the right time taking first in the all-around at the Prospect Invite with an impressive 37.70.
Amelia Rafferty (Elk Grove): The Grenadier junior time has arrived. Rafferty has always been in the hunt, but this season everything is coming together. She finished two-tenths of a point behind Scala for all-around title at the Prospect Invite. These two could be in for a classic battle.
Christine Jensen (Fremd): The Viking junior has been a key member of a deep attack. Jensen has emerged from a one-event specialist as a freshman to an all-around threat.
Maddie Larock (Prospect): The Knight sophomore has emerged this season as one of the top MSL gymnast. Larock flashed her potential by taking first in the all-around (37.525) at the Palatine Invite in December.
Abby Hassanov (Barrington) and Kelly Johnston (Rolling Meadows): These two freshmen have taken the MSL by storm. Johnston flashed her potential by hitting a 37.75 in the all-around in December, while Hassanov lit it up in early January with a 37.75 in the all-around. Both are difference-makers.
Others to watch: Abby Alden (Sr. Palatine), Sydney Plichta (So., Fremd), Christine Radochonski (So., Fremd), Annie Johnson (Jr., Hersey), Caiti Poland (Fr. Schaumburg), Meicie Bennett (Jr., Conant)
-- Michael Eaken