Naperville North won't be taking its team to compete at state next weekend. The thing is, it doesn't really matter to the Huskies, because they've already won plenty this year.
After a surprise victory in the DuPage Valley Conference and then a fantastic regional, the Huskies put the final touch on their team season by taking third in Wednesday's Hinsdale Central sectional with a season-best 139.575 points.
No one was going to beat Lyons Twp. anyway; the Lions very well could be crowned state champions next week. The Lions scored 149.25 points while Hinsdale Central was a distant second with a 140.9. Neuqua Valley placed sixth with a 134.75.
"This was a big stage for gymnastics and our girls brought their game tonight," Naperville North coach Chris Stanicek said. "They came ready for the occasion and performed well."
They outdid themselves again.
"It's not just about winning, it's about growing as a family and as a team," Naperville North's Shelby Porter said. "We've been an underdog, but we've come so far and shown what we're capable of doing."
Senior Kaitlyn Daly and sophomore Michaela Robert performed particularly well and both will represent the Huskies at state next weekend.
Robert took second on bars with a personal-record 9.675, and Daly tied for fifth on vault. The duo added top 10 finishes in the all-around with Robert leading the way, 36.975 to 36.125. They could advance as all-arounders via an at-large bid but will have to wait and see.
"Honestly, the most important thing was that we were here as a team tonight," Daly said. "Our team is so special to me. We're so close and never afraid to cheer loud for each other and other teams. It's just been a very special season."
It's a season that's gotten better and better despite more being on the line.
"We've focused more on the experience than the scores and we've tended to do better when we think of opportunities instead of if we need to get an 8.9," Naperville North's Allie Pecorin said. "Our mentality has been to do it for the sake of doing it instead of for scores, and that's been a big difference."
Also heading to state will be Neuqua Valley senior Sarah Cushing, who was fifth on beam with a 9.4.
"She's really had to take a backseat because of injuries, so it was so great to see her stay focused on beam," Wildcats coach Jo Ann Pschigoda said. "For her to finish fifth with this level of competition, and with this much pressure, really showed how tough she can be."
The Wildcats had few other highlights as a team, although they gained a great deal of experience. Sophomores Emily Jacobs, Isis Ruff and junior Shaniah Lim all competed in the all-around. Jacobs led with way with a 34.6 and all three will be expected to lead the squad next winter.
Waubonsie Valley/Metea Valley co-op senior Jess Malon had potential to get to state on bars but only was awarded an 8.825 for her effort. Teammates Carolyn Jennrich and freshman Alaina Kapla represented the team in the all-around, while Malon added an 8.275 on beam.
Still, their participation was little consolation for "what could've been" for a program that on paper in the preseason was state caliber.
"Like I said, Alaina and Carolyn were very excited to get this opportunity," Waubonsie Valley/Metea Valley co-op coach Nicole Daly said. "It's just unfortunate overall because we probably could've made it as a team this year because we have so much potential but had more injuries."
Naperville Central's all-arounders often mimic a cross country pack with how close they are in the scoring column. There was more of that on Wednesday with Lea Savard, Claire Savard and Danielle Breeden. Separating the pack though was junior Vanessa Henry with a 34.225.