INDEPENDENT CONFERENCE LIBERTYVILLE Coach: Josh Cimo (third season)
Last year's record: fifth in Independent Conference
Top graduated seniors: Sergio Ayala, Art Hirata
Top returning competitors: seniors Jack Burke (five events), Ben Reichert (five events), Christian Womack (two events), Rob McCormick (pommel horse);juniors Mark Pickar (four events), Ryan Flores (three events);sophomore Adrian Metcalf (all-around)
Key newcomers: senior Alex Pong (all-around);freshman Andrew Jacobs (all-around)
Outlook: While the Wildcats have lost a key contributor in senior Will Larson to injury, they have picked up a great addition to the squad in senior all-arounder Alex Pong, who had an injury-plagued 2013 season in club gymnastics before joining the team this year. The Libertyville program has been making gradual improvements with a young and inexperienced team going through some growing pains over the past two seasons. But the Wildcats' 2014 team appears to be poised to make a pretty big jump up in scoring this spring as Pong joins a really solid group of returning gymnasts with some varsity experience under their belts. Coach Cimo is hopeful that his squad can really turn the corner this season and put everything together with their routines when the IHSA state series rolls around. Metcalf is not at 100 percent strength heading into the season due to a broken finger, but if he can make a solid recovery it could make a huge difference in Libertyville's team scoring.
MUNDELEIN Coach: Jesse Piland (sixth season)
Last year's record: fourth in state, first in Independent Conference
Top graduated seniors: Theo Vergis
Top returning competitors: seniors Colin McCarthy (fourth in state all-around, third on parallel bars, fifth on high bar, tied for seventh on floor exercise and pommel horse, eighth on still rings), Cameron Mueller (17th in state all-around, tied for second on still rings and vault), Jacob Petri (all-around), Alex Gomez (four events), Carlos Marin (floor exercise);sophomore Brandon Swanson (all-around)
Key newcomers: junior Alex Villasenor (two events);freshman Greg Godellas (all-around)
Outlook: After reaching the Elite Eight state meet for the 20th time in school history last season, the Mustangs should be ready to put together another great season in 2014 with an abundance of experienced seniors back for their final campaigns. McCarthy is an especially key performer for Mundelein after placing fourth overall in the state last year and he should be the driving force behind the squad once again this spring. Depth should be a real plus for the Mustangs as they have the luxury of marching out many competent gymnasts on just about every event to help compensate for any missed routines. Senior Kevin Franz (three events) will forgo his senior season to focus on diving. If McCarthy competes in the IHSA state series, it should be almost impossible to stop Mundelein for qualifying for its fourth consecutive Elite Eight appearance.
STEVENSON Coach: Eric Liva (second season)
Last year's record: third in state, second in Independent Conference
Top graduated seniors: Kyle Weichselbaum
Top returning competitors: seniors Jacob Guth (19th in state all-around), Christian Courtney (tied for seventh on pommel horse);junior Arie Feltman-Frank (13th in state all-around, tied for third on high bar, sixth on pommel horse)
Key newcomers: senior Zach Gilbert (all-around);junior Elijah Klaber (five events);freshman Matt Krames (all-around)
Outlook: As is the case with Mundelein, the Patriots still have quite a bit of talent returning this season after bringing home the third-place trophy from the Elite Eight meet last year. Like Libertyville with Pong, Stevenson also has a key new senior on its squad this spring as all-arounder Zach Gilbert should really make his impact felt across the board for coach Liva. It remains to be seen how the new IHSA scoring system will affect teams and individuals this season. But Liva is cautiously optimistic that the Pats will be able to overcome any obstacles that the different scoring rules will create as the 2014 season unfolds. Liva's stellar coaching career has seen him help guide teams from Hinsdale South, Mundelein, and Stevenson to numerous Elite Eight meets and top-three trophies dating back to 1992.