Mundelein's boys gymnastics program has withstood the test of time.
Going back to their first Elite Eight appearance, when they placed seventh in 1988, the Mustangs have pretty much been a mainstay at the IHSA state meet.
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There have been a few peaks and valleys along the way, but Mundelein is expecting to hit a major milestone in May with its 20th Elite Eight appearance.
With the Mustangs boasting so many outstanding gymnasts in their 2013 lineup, a third straight trip to the state meet at Lincoln-Way East is basically a foregone conclusion, barring a rash of injuries in the often-volatile sport.
But unlike the past two seasons, when the Mustangs placed seventh among eight teams at state, Mundelein coach Jesse Piland has much higher hopes for his current squad.
"I think we can do a lot better than we did the last two years because for the last two of years we've kind of been one of the teams that was just happy to be there," said Piland, a former Mundelein gymnasts whose team has already scored over 145 points this season. "But for this group of guys I think a good goal would be not just to go to state, but to go to to state and compete for a (top-three) trophy."
Mundelein's program has certainly competed for and won a lot of top-three trophies in its storied history, beginning with the first of its six state championships under former coach Doug Foerch in 1989.
The Mustangs raised the first-place trophy under the guidance of Foerch again in 1990 and 1993, before they pulled off a "three-peat" from 1998-2000 during the height of their mini dynasty in that era.
Foerch's squads made 14 appearances in the Elite Eight meet with seconds in 1994 and 2001 to go along with a third-place finish in 1991.
After Foerch left to coach the Highland Park-Deerfield co-op following the 2002 season, current first-year Stevenson coach Eric Liva enjoyed quite a bit of success at Mundelein with a second in 2003, a seventh in 2004 and a third in 2005 rounding out the 11 top-three trophies in the Mustangs' trophy case.
Standout junior all-arounder Colin McCarthy gives Mundelein much hope in its push for trophy No. 12 after he placed 10th in the state overall as a sophomore.
McCarthy is part of a great junior class on the current squad that also features all-arounders Cameron Mueller (24th in state overall) and Jacob Petri, who transferred to Mundelein from Wisconsin last year.
With McCarthy out of the lineup Tuesday due to illness, Mueller averaged an 8.58 to take home the all-around title in a dual meet at Libertyville.
"This year the sky is the limit for Colin. He's become a complete gymnast," said Piland, who has quite a bit of flexibility with his lineup this spring. "He could 'podium' (top five), for sure, in the all-around."
Despite having almost two full seasons ahead of them to look forward to, the current group of Mundelein juniors is going to play a huge role in the Mustangs' success. Theo Vergis is the only senior on this season's team.
"I'm hopefully going for 56 (points) in the all-around. That is my ultimate goal. But I just want to help the team out," said McCarthy, who tied a career-high with a 54.7 earlier this season. "We're getting a lot better as a team with Cameron and Jacob. Our goal is to get top three, but to finish higher would be amazing. We have to keep form to make every point count."
Mueller has shown great improvement from last year. He is another one of the young leaders his teammates will be looking to for guidance.
"We just want to improve from last year," said Mueller, who placed seventh in the state on still rings last year. "We just need to stick together and work hard to correct all of our little form errors."
Freshman all-arounder Brandon Swanson is yet another gymnast the Mustangs' deep squad. But he will probably play a much larger role in years to come.
"Swanson is doing very well considering he just got back from a week of illness," Piland said. "I want 51, maybe 52 points from Cameron (Mueller) by the end of the season, and if we get any more than that, we're really rolling."
The Mustangs will have one of their biggest tests of the regular season coming up on April 5 when they host the 16-team Bob Bohl Invitational, a meet that includes perennial power Lincoln-Way co-op.