As the state series approaches, the Stevenson boys gymnastics team wanted to put together a strong showing Wednesday night at the Independent Conference meet in Libertyville.
And the Patriots did just that as they recaptured the conference title from long-time rival Mundelein. Stevenson scored 154.2 to Mundelein's 148.95.
The host Wildcats had a solid showing with a third-place score of 143.9 points as they were able to top fourth-place Glenbard South (130.1 points) and fifth-place Fenton (112.7 points).
Mundelein senior Colin McCarthy closed out his IHSA career in style as he won the all-around competition with a 9.11 average (54.65 points). Under new IHSA rules, McCarthy will not be allowed to compete in the sectionals a week from Saturday since he will be competing in the USA nationals in California earlier in the week.
Stevenson's surge to the team championship was led by senior all-arounder Zack Gilbert, who captured runner-up honors with an 8.93 average (53.6 points). Libertyville senior Alex Pong placed third overall (8.75 average) as he competed in the all-around for the first time since early this season due to injury.
"We were solid, we were very clean, and we hit what we needed to do," said Gilbert, who was competing in IHSA gymnastics for the first time this season. "There were very few mistakes so I was very proud of our team and I'm very happy with the results."
Mundelein's Cameron Muller (48.8 points) placed fourth in the all-around as he held off Glenbard South's Eugene Boguslavsky (48.2 points) in fifth, and Stevenson's Jacob Guth (48.0) in sixth. Libertyville's Adrian Metcalf (44.1) placed seventh overall.
"Other than pommel horse we looked pretty good and we hit 22 out of 24 routines tonight," said Stevenson coach Eric Liva, whose team scored 27.1 points on vault. "Zack Gilbert had a meet like there's no tomorrow, he looked awesome tonight."
"If we just keep doing what we're doing we should hopefully win our sectional," added Liva, whose team hosts a sectional meet next Thursday night.
Mundelein's outstanding effort featured first-place scores of 9.65 on parallel bars, 9.4 on floor exercise, and 9.1 on pommel horse by McCarthy. Stevenson junior Arie Feltman-Frank took home first place on high bar with an 8.7 to edge McCarthy with an 8.6.
"It was a great effort tonight by everybody and we had some guys step up," said Mundelein coach Jesse Piland, whose team scored a meet-high 27.4 points on vault. "We finally had our sophomore, Brandon Swanson, in the lineup -- and he helped a ton."
Piland is naturally disappointed that he won't have the services of McCarthy for the sectionals, but he is also grateful to have coached the elite gymnast for the past four seasons.
"Colin (McCarthy) went out on a definite high note and whether he gets to compete at the end of the year or not he's still the best gymnast in the state," added Piland, who still hopes to reach the Elite Eight meet as a team even without McCarthy in the lineup.
Pong was the still rings champion with a 9.4 while senior teammate Ben Reichert (9.3) tied for top honors on vault with McCarthy. Pong (9.2), Gilbert, and Fenton's Oscar Garza finished in a three-way tie for third place on vault.
"Floor exercise started off a little shaky, but everything else we hit and they did a great job," said Libertyville coach Josh Cimo, whose team will compete in the Mundelein sectional. "Alex (Pong) was back in the all-around for the first time since the beginning of the year and it definitely motivated the guys a little bit."
Gilbert placed second on parallel bars (9.4), pommel horse (9.1), and floor (9.0). Mueller (9.0) was the runner-up on still rings while Stevenson junior Elijah Klaber placed third on floor exercise (8.9) and third on pommel horse (8.5).
This will be the final season for Glenbard South coach Steve Young, who spent 25 of his 33 seasons as the Raiders' head coach.
"We did fairly well and I think this is a good lead up to sectionals," said Young, whose team recorded a season-high 136 points earlier in the season. "I think tonight they almost put too much pressure on themselves and they were a little nervous in warm ups."