Girls gymnastics / State meet scouting, Northwest
When: Session I, 5 p.m. Friday (preliminaries in the individual events and finals in the all-around). Session II, 5:30 p.m. Saturday (championship finals in individual events/team competition).
Where: Palatine High School
Automatic team qualifiers (with sectional scores): Prairie Ridge Co-op (149.525), Lyons Township (149.250), New Trier (144.40), St. Charles North Co-op (143.775).
At-large team qualifiers: Fremd (146.225), Glenbard West (143.30), Geneva (142.825), Lake Forest (142.45).
Top individual event sectional scores: Vault: Lauren Feeley (sr.) Carmel 9.85; uneven bars: Kelsy Kurfirst (soph.) Lyons Township 9.7; balance beam: Riley Mahoney (soph.) Prairie Ridge co-op 9.525; floor exercise: Amelia Rafferty (jr.) Elk Grove 9.7; all-around: Kelsy Kurfirst (soph.) Lyons Township 38.35.
Team outlook: It looks to be a 2-way battle between Prairie Ridge Co-op and Lyons Township for the state title. Fremd secured an at-large bid and enters the state meet with the third-best mark. Last year Prairie Ridge co-op took third at state, earning its first state trophy. Cary-Grove sophomore duo Riley Mahoney and Rachael Underwood give Prairie Ridge a powerful 1-2 punch. Mahoney earned the top sectional mark on beam, while Underwood enters with the second-best mark on vault. Prairie Ridge has also received big time support from sophomore Jada Berkland and freshman Maddie Solka. Sophomore Kelsy Kurfirst enters the state meet with the top sectional mark in the all-around and uneven bars and powers Lyons. Last year Kurfirst tied for first place at state on the uneven bars in leading the Lions to a sixth-place team finish. This year junior Michelle Cozza and junior Katie Carling have combined with Kurfirst in helping Lyons climb the ranks. Fremd will definitely be in the hunt for its 21st state trophy. The Vikings have a very balanced and deep attack. New Trier, St. Charles North Co-op, and Glenbard West will be in the chase pack and looking to crack the top three.
Team local focus:
Fremd: The Vikings will hit you in waves. Sophomore Sydney Plichta earned a state medal last season by tying for third place on bars, and she'll be a major factor for her team this weekend. She enters with the third-best mark on beam and will once again be a threat on bars. Sophomore Christine Radochonski is also looking to make a mark. The Vikings soph enters with the fourth-best mark on floor. Junior Christine Jensen (vault, beam), senior Emily Pinderski (bars), and senior Mary Smaga (vault, bars) also qualified individually for the Vikings, and all three are state veterans. The Mid-Suburban League champions are looking to peak at the right time. Fremd is missing senior Shannon Lemajeur and senior Stephanie Gallo due to injuries, but the Vikings senior trio of Pinderski, Smaga, and Anna Johnson have set the tone and have provided plenty of energy. The Vikings senior class took third at state as freshman and they are looking to end their career on the podium. "Those three may not get the headlines, but they have been a big part of Fremd's success," said Fremd coach Elise Ference of her seniors. Sophomore Emily Neal, freshman Maggie Betti, freshman Lisa Radochonski and freshman Mariah Gura have stepped in at various times to lead a versatile Vikings attack. Fremd is looking to put some pressure on co-favorites Prairie Ridge co-op and Lyons. "Our focus is entirely on the team. It has been a different team since sectionals, a lot of kids are stepping up and there is plenty of passion," added Ference.
Carmel senior Lauren Feely has earned 7 state medals the past two season including back-to-back state titles on the beam in leading a Corsairs team that had won three consecutive state title before missing the state qualifying cut this season. Feely enters the meet with the top mark on the vault and second best mark on the floor. She also has the second best sectional mark in the all-around. Kurfirst will also be looking to add to her medal count entering with top mark in the all-around and bars in leading Lyons. St. Edward senior Abby Madden is no stranger to the state meet, and will be seeking her first state medal. Madden enters with the third best mark in the all-around.
Area individual qualifiers
Amelia Rafferty (Elk Grove, jr., all-around, vault, beam, floor): Rafferty has had an impressive season, including winning the MSL all-around title. The Grenadier junior enters with the top mark on the floor and will be seeking her first state medal.
Gianna Scala (Prospect, jr. , all-around, bars, floor): Scala earned her first state medal by tying for fifth on the floor last season. The Knights junior has been impressive this season and has the third-best qualifying mark on the floor.
Maddie Larock (Prospect, soph., all-around, bars, floor): Larock had a breakout year in combining with Scala in helping Prospect take second in the MSL. The Knights sophomore is strong on the bars and could make a push for Saturday's finals.
Abby Alden (Palatine, sr. all-around, bars, beam): Alden picked up the slack for the Pirates this season with senior Nicole Kuksuk battling injuries. The Pirates senior has been consistent from the start and qualified for her second consecutive state meet. Alden will definitely be in play for an appearance in Saturdays finals.
Claudia Przystal (Palatine, soph., beam): Przystal will be earned her first state appearance with a solid beam performance at sectionals. The Pirates sophomore has been moving up the ladder and is looking to cap a solid season.
Abby Hasanov (Barrington, fr., all-around, vault, bars, floor): Hasanov has had an outstanding debut season and her only blemish was a fall on the beam at sectionals. The Fillies freshman was a cool customer at sectionals using an impressive vault (9.675), bars (9.5), and floor (9.4). She is a star in the making and may just make a mark in Saturday's finals.
Kelly Johnston (Rolling Meadows, fr., bars): Johnston also had a very impressive freshman season. The Mustang freshman will be looking to make her mark on the bars. She is definitely a rising star.
Meicie Bennett (Conant, jr. , floor): Bennett has been a solid anchor for Conant this season, and she especially is solid on the floor. This will be the first state appearance for the Cougar junior.
Annie Johnson (Hersey, jr., bars): Johnson finally broke through in making her first state appearance this year. The Huskies junior definitely has all-around potential, but she will be looking to make her mark on the bars this weekend.
-- Michael Eaken