Girls gymnastics preview
When: Session l at 5 p.m. Friday (preliminaries in the individual events and final in the all-around). Session II, 5:30 p.m. Saturday ( championship finals in individual events/team trophies).
Where: Palatine High School
Automatic team qualifiers (with sectional scores): Lyons Township (149.875), Prairie Ridge co-op (148.525), Geneva (146.525), New Trier (142.875).
At-large team qualifiers: Fremd (147.675), Barrington (143.675), St. Charles co-op (143.15), Prospect (142.925).
Team outlook: Lyons Township will be seeking its second consecutive state title and the Lions seem to be in good position to get the job done. Lyons hit the top state mark this season (152.10) and cruised through the regional and sectionals. Junior Kelsy Kurfirst and senior Katie Carling push a deep squad. Kurfirst tied for a second-place state medal in the all-around last season and also won the state title on the floor. The junior seems primed for another big state meet. Prairie Ridge co-op also will be in the trophy hunt. Junior Rachael Underwood tied for a second-place state medal last year in the all-around in leading PR to a second-place team trophy and will be a factor this year. Prairie Ridge lost junior star Riley Mahoney in early January to an injury, but the Wolves have bounced back big. Fremd finished third last season and the Vikings are in good shape for a big finish this year. Freshman Claire Rose Ginsberg has given Geneva a huge lift, and the Vikings figure to have a say in the trophy hunt. Barrington, St Charles co-op, Prospect, and New Trier will be in the chase pack.
Local focusFremd: The Vikings' march continues as they aim for their 21st state trophy. It starts with senior Christine Jensen, who has been a force for the Vikings all season. She has qualified individually in all four events and also in the all-around. But a trio of juniors has quietly done the job for Fremd this season. Sydney Plichta (bars, beam), Christine Radochonski (floor), and Emily Neal (bars, beam) all qualified individually for the Vikings. Plichta has reached the Saturday finals the past two years, earning a medal on the bars her freshman year. "The biggest thing this year has been consistency and hitting our numbers," added Plichta. Jensen has returned from a knee injury and has been a strong on the floor. "Everyone has had to step up this year, and it's been about the team," said Radochonski. Sophomore Maggie Betti (bars) and sophomore Carly DeFilippo (vault) also qualified individually for the Vikings and helped the team adjust after losing sophomore Lisa Radochonski to a season-ending injury. Fremd hit its stride in late December and has been building ever since. The Vikings won Mid-Suburban League and regional titles, then took second at the Conant sectional and are hoping for their top performance of the season at state.
Barrington: The Fillies qualified for the state meet for the first time since 2003. Sophomore Abby Hasanov has led the effort all season and qualified individually in all four events and in the all-around. But she has had help. Senior Brooke Morgan qualified individually on the vault and junior Jessica Lee qualified on the bars. The two combined with junior Tara Schumann to give the Fillies strong leadership. "It's big because we haven't qualified as a team since 2003 -- we're a deep team and everybody has stepped up," said Morgan. Lee suffered an ACL injury last season, but returned to give the Fillies a boost. "It's been a long wait and I had to overcome a lot of things, but I am really happy to be going to state with my team," said Lee. Sophomores Molly Blanke and Amanda Morgan have also helped Barrington, and freshmen Rachal Timperman and Hayley Niles are contributing as well. Barrington recovered from a shaky bar routine at sectionals by finishing strong in its final event, beam, to nail down its state berth.
Prospect: The Knights had to overcome a lot in securing the program's first state berth. They lost top all-around gymnast Gianna Scala before their first meet, then had to overcome some falls on beam at the sectionals, but the Knights persevered. Junior Maddie Larock advanced on all four events and also in the all-around in leading Prospect. Freshman Olivia Gonzalez qualified individually on the floor and vault, with sophomore Megan Donner qualifying individually on the bars. Senior Jackie DiFonzo was a big contributor this season, but will miss the state meet with a concussion. That means Donner, Gonzalez, and freshman Meghan Schmit will have to step up. Junior Maddie Boldt and sophomore Candice Melendez have also added to the effort. Gonzalez and Schmit, both freshmen, were thrown into the fire early and both have responded with solid seasons. "At first I was kind of nervous, but my confidence has grown as the season has progressed," said Gonzalez. The Knights hit big in winning a regional with a school-record 146.625, then recovered from a slow start at sectionals to cement the state berth. "It was a lot of pressure put on us from the start but I think we handled it well," added Schmit. The pressure will increase at state, but that's nothing new for a Prospect team that has cleared its share of hurdles this season.
Individual area qualifiersAmelia Rafferty, sr. (Elk Grove): all-around, vault, bars, beam, floor; Kelly Johnston, so. (Rolling Meadows): all-around, bars, floor; Victoria Zervos, fr. (Rolling Meadows); vault; Ali Kelly, so. (Conant): beam; Bridget Shanahan, jr. (Conant): beam; Rachel Tong, sr. (Conant): bars; Sarah Zorilla, so. (Conant): vault; Ashley Chimis, sr. (Schaumburg): floor; Meghan Aguayo , so. (Wheeling): floor.
-- Michael Eaken