Glenbard West, Geneva and St. Charles co-op had so many great performances last week in regional competition that it made Tuesday's Glenbard West sectional a must-see event for girls gymnastics fans.
The Vikings have never advanced to state in their young 13-year history. Meanwhile, St. Charles co-op had earned just a single trip in the past 12 years.
The Hilltoppers and Vikings still might celebrate, but they won't know if they have a reason to until around 9:30 p.m. Thursday. As for St. Charles, it started to party when it was awarded a sectional plaque after a thrilling victory.
All that separated St. Charles and runner-up Glenbard West was 0.475 points, while third-place Geneva was also less than a point behind their neighboring champions with a 142.825.
"It was amazing and we had no idea how close it was or anything," St. Charles freshman Rachel Dugan said. "When we heard them announce our name, oh my gosh, it was the best feeling in the world."
Geneva opened the meet on its best two events, floor and vault, and led midway through with 73.575 points. St. Charles was a distant fourth at the time with 70.3 points but also knew it would finish on floor and vault.
"We had to do some regrouping halfway through," St. Charles coach Amy Lill said. "My girls are very resilient and came together as a team. I'm really happy with what they were able to do today."
Dugan and senior Jesi Ortiz made the biggest impact during the final two events for St. Charles. Ortiz led the team with a 9.375 on floor and added a 9.15 on vault, while Dugan had a 9.275 on floor and a team-best 9.55 on vault. Also in the mix were a 9.4 on vault from Cathryn Gotlund and a 9.275 on floor from Kelly Gorniak.
We wanted to win so bad, and the want and the crave brought us together," Ortiz said. "I want to cry and I feel awesome."
The four sectional champions and the next four highest scores will advance to state. With two sectionals remaining, the top at-large scores belong to Fremd, Glenbard West and Geneva.
"Overall, I'm proud of the girls, I thought they did well," Glenbard West coach Carlos Fuentes said. "Hopefully, the at-large score holds and we'll get to state, which has been our goal. To have won a sectional would've been a bonus."
Mackenzie O'Keefe led the Hilltoppers, taking second in the all-around with a 37.3. The team also had a pair of first-place finishes as Amber Broucek won beam with a 9.275 and Maggie Phillips won bars with a 9.6. Senior Abbie Garchitorena, a staple on state qualifying teams during her four year, advanced to state for the first time as an individual, taking fifth on beam with a 9.075.
"That's why she's a senior captain for us, she was so clutch," Fuentes said. "It was great to finally see her earn that spot as well."
Although Ashley Puff and Dominique Brognia will represent Geneva at state, the Vikings were left disappointed by the errors that lowered the team's total, namely on bars and beam.
"We knew going in that whoever made the least amount of mistakes was going to win the meet," Geneva coach Kim Hostman said. "That was uncharacteristic for us on bars, and we had two falls on beam, which we just don't do."
Brognia was third in the all-around with 36.875 and also advanced on floor. Puff was fifth in the all-around with a 35.95 and also qualified on floor and vault.
"I just thought we would do better than this," Brognia said. "I think we were just, I don't know, maybe too nervous. It's hard to figure out what the difference was."
Megan Beitzel added a 9.425 on vault and Grace Ginsberg had an 8.825 on beam for the Vikings.
Glenbard North finished sixth in the team competition with a 139.675. Senior Mariah Matesi led the way, winning the all-around with a 37.375. She also won floor with a 9.45 and vault with a 9.55.
"It's really a great feeling because I've been working so hard this season," Matesi said. "I had (advancing to state) as a goal since before the season, so I'm very happy."
York's Alyna Gagliardo had top-four finishes on floor, vault and bars to pace the Dukes, who were fourth with a 140.7. Megan Davidson also qualified for the state finals, placing third on beam with a 9.15.