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updated: 2/3/2014 9:05 PM

Ready for regionals

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By Chris Walker
Daily Herald Correspondent

Most area girls gymnastics teams begin the state series Tuesday or Wednesday. Neuqua Valley and Wheaton Warrenville co-op are hosting regionals on Tuesday.

Naperville Central appears to be one of the favorites at Neuqua Valley, along with the Wildcats, while Wheaton Warrenville co-op and DeKalb/Sycamore co-op have been scoring around the 140 mark, so it could be very close.

"The girls are very excited," Wheaton Warrenville co-op coach Maureen Latimer said. "They had such a good meet tonight (Friday) and I think they're really looking forward to showing what they can do next week."

Naperville North will look to regroup after struggling on Friday at the DuPage Valley Conference meet. The only teams that can realistically beat the Huskies at their regional are the Huskies and No. 7 seed Oswego co-op. The Huskies have scored a 137 or higher five times this winter while Oswego co-op's season best is a 136 and it's coming off a 135.9 on Saturday. Waubonsie Valley/Metea Valley co-op will also be at Naperville North.

"The good thing is that we can put this one (DVC) behind us and focus on our regional," Naperville North coach Chris Stanicek said. "The girls have worked hard all season and we're looking forward to a good meet."

At Glenbard North on Wednesday, the Panthers shouldn't have a problem holding off Addison Trail, Glenbard South and Willowbrook.

"We've had some injuries and had to fight through them so I've been really proud of the girls," Panthers coach Kristin Nordquist said. "It's really incredible how they've stepped up."

Lake Park is also hosting on Wednesday and will be shooting for second place, as well as high of a team score as possible, as last year's state runner-up, Prairie Ridge co-op, will also be in Roselle.

The final area teams will be at York on Friday. St. Charles co-op is the favorite there. Glenbard West and Fenton will also compete.

The Hilltoppers have qualified as a team for sectionals 12 straight years so they have a lot on the line and likely will need to advance as an at-large qualifier as St. Charles is the heavy favorite in Elmhurst.

Foreign exchange friendships:

For the fourth consecutive season, Glenbard South coach Lee Wood has a foreign exchange student on his roster, and this year he has two with Amalie Nergaard (Norway) on the JV squad and Leo Grob (Switzerland). Grob's fit in nicely as the team's third all-arounder behind Kate Rumel and Stephanie Mundragon.

"Leo was a non-competitive rhythmic gymnast there and here is my third (gymnast) on almost every event," Wood said "The kids love her and I would love to have her for another two years. She's only here for this year. She's a junior in their country but only considered a sophomore (in the United States)."

Rumel has qualified for sectionals the past two years so making her first state appearance is an obvious goal.

"She's polishing everything up and wants so bad to go from regionals to sectionals to (state) prelims," Wood said. "And Stephanie's coming on strong, as well as showing that what held her back was the dislocated elbow two years ago. Now she's healthy."

Her last hurrah:

Fenton senior Taylor Patton has been the standout for the Bison, but she knows the end is coming soon.

Patton won the floor exercise with a 9.15 and placed second in the all-around with a 36.2 in Saturday's Independents Conference Meet at Oswego.

She'll make her final run into state series beginning Friday at York.

"You get to this point and you realize there's only so much time left," she said. "I'm definitely motivated and am going to push myself hard and want to go as far as possible."

Destination Palatine in jeopardy:

This looks to be one of those rare years where the state finals won't include a team from DuPage County.

With the recent success of Glenbard North, Glenbard West and Hinsdale Central, as well as a strong five-year run from Naperville Central a half dozen years ago, DuPage has been a fixture at Palatine.

Wheaton Warrenville co-op might have the best shot at landing an at-large team qualifier. It will enjoy the comfort of hosting both regionals and sectionals, which could provide some bonus comfort and boost scores. Still, it's highly doubtful that it can outscore Geneva and St. Charles co-op in the sectional. The Panthers and Hilltoppers are also in the Wheaton Warrenville South sectional.

Defending state champs Lyons seem destined to win the Hinsdale Central sectional. It would appear that Naperville Central and Naperville North would also qualify for that sectional, but even at their very best, they're not catching Lyons so they'll need to score season-best totals and hope the remainder of the state's at-large hopefuls aren't far above a 140.

Regardless if a DuPage team qualifies for state, it seems that several gymnasts seemed destined to earn their trip in the all-around and individual events.

Here come the Mustangs:

A team that's sort of flown under the radar this year is Downers Grove South, but there is no doubt that the Mustangs are for real.

The team tallied 140.75 points to win the West Suburban Gold Division meet at Leyden.

Emily Tom won the all-around with a 36.275, but she's just one key part of a collective unit. Specialists Inna Dzyum, Kayla Carlson, Ewa Wisniewski, Ivana Krcmarevic and all-arounders Paige Vondrasek and Bella Marzari are all doing their part.

"Emily had an amazing meet, but the thing is they're all contributing," Downers Grove South coach Kristyn Campos said. "At the beginning of the season, we set goals of winning conference and qualifying as a team for sectional, and I told the girls to not get to far ahead of themselves. They're a great group of kids and were all smiles after winning (conference)."

Great success across the board:

Sports fans are often so fixated on winning and the top the leaderboard that they lose sight of the fact that there are successes in the middle and even near the bottom of the standings.

Such was the case during Thursday's Upstate Eight Conference meet at Neuqua Valley. While Geneva's school-record and eye-popping 149.15 caught everyone's eye, it certainly overshadowed the fact that U-46 co-op, Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley/Metea Valley co-op and Batavia all posted season-best scores.

The only team not to have a season best was St. Charles co-op, which still scored a 144.625.

"We're continuing to get better," Neuqua Valley coach Anthony Avella said. "We had another season high score and now we'll see what we can do (at Tuesday's regional.")

Emily Jacobs, Isis Ruff and Colleen Moauro finished 10-11-12 in the all-around at the UEC.

Snow away:

The snow didn't postpone Saturday's Independents Conference meet but it kept Geneseso, which would've had a two-plus hour drive, from competing.

"I'm just glad we got it in," Glenbard South coach Lee Wood said. "They talked about moving stuff, but with regionals, it just wouldn't have been possible."

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