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updated: 12/21/2013 8:29 PM

Naperville N.'s Robert, Prospect's Larock lead the way

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  • Prospect's Maddie Larock, rights, gets a hug from teammate Maddie Boldt after Maddie performed on the uneven parallel bars at the 25th annual Palatine Invitational on Saturday.

       Prospect's Maddie Larock, rights, gets a hug from teammate Maddie Boldt after Maddie performed on the uneven parallel bars at the 25th annual Palatine Invitational on Saturday.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Prospect's Jackie Difonzo on the vault at the 25th annual Palatine Invitational on Saturday.

       Prospect's Jackie Difonzo on the vault at the 25th annual Palatine Invitational on Saturday.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Prospect's Megan Schmit on the vault at the 25th annual Palatine Invitational on Saturday.

       Prospect's Megan Schmit on the vault at the 25th annual Palatine Invitational on Saturday.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Samantha Reed, a senior at Palatine High School, hangs a poster at the school's invitational on Saturday to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a benefit for Olivia Schrader, the 6-year-old daughter of Buffalo Grove coach and former Palatine gymnast Stephanie Schrader, who has been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. All the funds raised will be in her honor. Olivia was not at the meet but planned to arrive in time to hand out the awards at the end of the meet.

       Samantha Reed, a senior at Palatine High School, hangs a poster at the school's invitational on Saturday to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a benefit for Olivia Schrader, the 6-year-old daughter of Buffalo Grove coach and former Palatine gymnast Stephanie Schrader, who has been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. All the funds raised will be in her honor. Olivia was not at the meet but planned to arrive in time to hand out the awards at the end of the meet.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Prospect's Maddie Larock on the uneven parallel bars at the 25th annual Palatine Invitational on Saturday.

       Prospect's Maddie Larock on the uneven parallel bars at the 25th annual Palatine Invitational on Saturday.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Naperville North's Anneli Kawaoka on the vault at the 25th annual Palatine Invitational on Saturday.

       Naperville North's Anneli Kawaoka on the vault at the 25th annual Palatine Invitational on Saturday.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Palatine's Kara Ure on the vault at the 25th annual Palatine Invitational on Saturday.

       Palatine's Kara Ure on the vault at the 25th annual Palatine Invitational on Saturday.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Naperville North's Michaela Robert on the vault at the 25th annual Palatine Invitational on Saturday.

       Naperville North's Michaela Robert on the vault at the 25th annual Palatine Invitational on Saturday.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
By Michael Eaken
Daily Herald Correspondent

Naperville North junior Michaela Robert has made quite a splash to begin the season for the Huskies.

And there was no slowing down for Robert on Saturday at the 25th annual Palatine Invitational.

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She was solid from start to finish in securing the all-around title with 37.725 score, holding off a strong challenge from Prospect junior Maddie Larock (37.075).

"She has really put herself in a nice position," said Naperville North coach Chris Stanicek of Robert, who is two-time state qualifier. "She has established herself early on this season, and she is still working on little things."

Larock was neck and neck with Robert for the first three rotations before slipping on her final pass on floor. But the Knights junior has also risen to the occasion this season. She helped drive Prospect to its second consecutive Palatine Invite team title with 143.10 points as the Knights easily outdistanced Glenbrook South (138.45).

Naperville North took third with 137.125 points, followed by U-46 Co-op (130.80). York (129.30). Palatine (126.15), Libertyville (125.40), and Wheeling (120.20) rounded out the eight team field.

Prospect set the tone early on its first event, hitting a solid 37.10 on vault and the Knights never looked back.

"Vault made the difference," said Prospect coach Randy Smith of the Knights' opening event. "It was a good boost, and the confidence kept building."

Larock (9.5), sophomore Megan Donner (9.4), and senior Jackie Difonzo (9.3) went 4-6-7 on the vault in leading the Knights' attack.

The Knights continued their momentum on bars with Larock (9.425), Donner (8.825), and freshman Megan Schmit (8.7) going 2-4-5. Donner added a fifth-place finish in the all-around (35.7)

"I think everyone stepped up today," said Larock, who also took third on the beam (9.35). "I think we fed off the energy today. Vault started it off and it kind of rolled from there."

Prospect has faced it share of adversity this season, losing top senior all-arounder Gianna Scala to a torn ACL. But the Knights have responded with an infusion of young talent that helped the team hit a season-best score on Saturday.

Freshman Olivia Gonzalez took first on the floor (9.325) to cap the Knights' winning effort.

"I was just trying to do my best and my team gave me a lot of confidence," said Gonzalez. "We have great potential, we have the skills, and everyone is supporting each other."

Freshman Hannah Hartley paced Glenbrook South by taking third in the all-around (36.575); she also took first on vault (9.6), fourth on beam (9.275), and fourth on floor (9.025).

Katie Wahl added a second-place finish on vault (9.55) for the Titans.

"So far it has been a good start for myself and the team," said Hartley, "We'll keep working and try to improve."

Naperville North also continued to impress -- especially Robert, who won bars (9.55), added second-place finishes on beam (9.4) and floor (9.25) and secured third place on vault (9.525) in a sparkling performance.

Robert set the tone for the day with the opening floor performance, and the junior kept building from there.

"Starting off strong gave me the confidence and I think it carried throughout the meet," said Robert who has made an early mark this season. "I am looking to carry my strong start of the season all the way to the finish."

Sophomore Anneli Kawaoka helped out the Huskies' attack by taking fourth in the all-around (35.925), with a third-place finish on floor (9.15), and fifth-place finishes on vault (9.45) and beam (9.225).

Erika Climo added a fifth-place finish for Naperville North on the floor (8.875).

"We have a lot of potential and we still have a lot of things we can improve on," said Kawaoka.

Senior Alyssa Konkel gave U-46 Co-op a lift by taking first on the beam (9.425). Konkel, a Bartlett senior, was only competing in her second meet of the season but showed no rust in capping her beam performance with a roundoff full dismount.

"It felt good," said Konkel, who qualified to state as a freshman and sophomore. "I was bit nervous early, but I was able to make it through."

Palatine is in transition this season, especially after losing junior Morgan Anderson to a season-ending injury. Pirates junior Claudia Przystal was also limited to one event on Saturday due to an ankle injury.

But junior Andrea Ori (8.7) and freshman Kara Ure (8.65) gave the Pirates a boost on the floor with top 10 finishes.

"It's been hard this season, but we have all been working hard and improving," said Ori, who also tied for eighth on vault (9.0). "But it was a nice finish on the floor."

Senior Mariah Lee gave Libertyville a lift by taking third on the bars (9.075) and adding a sixth-place finish for the Wildcats on the beam (9.0).

"Overall Mariah did very well," said Libertyville coach Tiffany Owens of Lee's performance. "She's had an awesome year so far, and we will continue to add skills for the state series. She has a lot more to show."

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