A year ago, Conant's Joey Mauk was just happy to be out for the gymnastics team.
Mauk was coming off a serious injury to his right shoulder, where he tore more than half of his rotator cuff. Mauk returned late in the season last year, but it wasn't enough as Conant just missed qualifying for the state meet.
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This year, Mauk and Conant have their sights set on big goals.
Both got huge starts Wednesday at Fremd where Mauk competed in five events for the first time in three years to help Conant post the second-best team score this year with a 147.10.
"It was really good to be out there for five events," Mauk said. "I just added pommels tonight and it felt real good. I am still off of rings because of my shoulder. But hopefully by the end of the year."
"We have been working hard and it has been paying off," said Conant coach Mike Opsal, who is in his first year as Cougars head coach. "We still have some tricks we can throw in that we are waiting on a little bit."
One trick that Opsal doesn't have to worry about is having Mauk back in the lineup. Even surgery back in December to clean up some scar tissue hasn't kept the senior for add events to his competition.
"This is my three-month mark," said Mauk, who competed in four events last week. "It has been tough to be out because my body wasn't used to gymnastics. But it is much better now."
"We had Joey on pommel horse and that helped boost our score," Opsal said. "He still isn't at full strength and there are some skills he can't do yet. But he has given our team a huge lift. You can see the kids get so excited when he throws up 9.4's or 9.5's."
With Mauk scoring a 9.60 on the parallel bars, a 9.40 on the floor and a 9.0 on the vault, the Cougars were shining. Brian Reedy scored a 45.90 in the all-around while Blake Rossdeutcher had a 42.30. Conant also got a strong performance from Brandon Metcalf on the rings with an 8.70 and Joshua Hoppe, who had an 8.90 on the floor.
"Brian has been consistent and Blake has been busted his backside for us," Opsal said. "Also our specialists like Brandon and Joshua made huge contributions."
"We had a great meet," said Reedy, who had a 9.00 on the vault. "We picked up a few points along the way. We are liking it so far, but we aren't going to be comfortable. We need to keep improving every week."
Making another huge contribution for Fremd was senior C.J. Patton, who had the top all-around score with a 50.90. Patton's score was good enough to win despite a subpar performance in the pommel horse, where he scored an 8.80.
"The meet was solid," said Patton, who had a career-best on the vault and an 8.60 on the high bar. "I messed up my Magyar at the end pf my pommel horse routine. It caused me to bend my legs and take some extra circles. I still got an 8.80 for that routine, so I will take it."
Fremd coach Tim Hamman was pleased by his team's 128.80. Hamman liked Patton's performance, but also credited the work of Doug Leatherman and Noah Ciborowski.
"C.J. was strong as usual," Hamman said. "But I also like the way our young guys are coming along."
Barrington picked up a bit from Tuesday's dual meet with Stevenson. The Broncos scored a 93.70 to gain nearly two points.
"We have lots of hard workers," Barrington coach Rob DeFano said. "They are just green at the sport. We had a lot of guys moving in and out. But we will be much better by the end of the season."
• Palatine scored 125.4 to top Hoffman Estates (116.7) and host Schaumburg (110.3).
Austin Hoening won vault (9.1) and Lucas Price won horizontal bar (6.1) for the Pirates. Price also had the top all-around score (44.4).
Hoffman Estates senior Jake Santiago won floor, rings and parallel bars and placed second in the all-around (44.0).
Schaumburg senior Elliot Lam won pommel horse (8.5) and was third in all-around (39.5).