Ranked fourth heading into the 63rd boys gymnastics state meet, Stevenson was going to be hard-pressed to capture one of the top three trophies Friday night at the Elite Eight competition.
But the Patriots beat the odds -- barely.
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Stevenson was able to edge Lyons Township 153.7 to 153.65 for runner-up honors in a pressure-packed meet that came down to the final few routines at Hinsdale Central.
Wheaton Warrenville co-op was truly the class of the field as the Tigers rolled to their third straight state championship with 161.55 points.
Glenbard West was ranked third heading into the meet, but the Hilltoppers had to settle out of the trophy hunt with a fourth-place score of 151.9 points.
Niles West placed fifth with 148.6 points to outdistance Liberyville (143.3 points) in sixth. The Wildcats were hurt by the loss of key senior Ben Reichert to a knee injury on their first event of the evening, vault.
Stevenson had just enough depth and poise to capture the second-place trophy as the Patriots finished on floor exercise with a 26.15. Lyons finished on high bar and had 23.5 points.
This marks the eighth top-three trophy in the relatively young history of the Stevenson program as the Pats now have four firsts, a second, and three thirds dating back to 1999.
"I'm just super proud of them and I'm glad they got another trophy," said Stevenson coach Eric Liva, whose team placed third last year. "After two rotations we were in last place and the boys didn't quit, and each rotation they would move up a spot."
The all-around competition was not very close at the top either, as Wheaton co-op's David MacDonald easily defended his state all-around title with a 56.1 (9.35 average), solidly ahead of the 54.2 from teammate Ethan Sansone.
Lyons' Chris Rediehs nipped Stevenson senior Zack Gilbert 53.45 to 53.3 for third place while Libertyville senior Alex Pong also earned a medal by placing fifth in the all-around wtih 53.1 points.
"I'm very satisfied with the team effort tonight, and we won by .05 so every effort the team did really counted," said Gilbert, who made an enormous impact on the Stevenson program in his only season of high school gymnastics. "The game plan was to just to take it event by event, play it cool, and stay focused."
Besides Gilbert's heroics, Stevenson senior Jacob Guth was also a huge contributor with a 14th-place finish in the all-around.
Junior Arie Feltman-Frank put together a consistent performance for the Patriots on four events while teammates Matt Krames, Elijah Klaber, and Christian Courtney played key roles in getting the hardware.
Despite losing Reichert to injury, Libertyville coach Josh Cimo was still pretty happy how the rest of the squad stepped up and filled in for the key senior, who would have competed in four events.
Pong was a huge contributor to the Wildcats' success this spring, but teammates Adrian Metcalf, Jack Burke, Ryan Flores, Mark Pickar, and Christian Womack helped push Libertyville back to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2007.
"It was unfortunate and I felt bad for him (Reichert), but some of the other guys stepped up and they really performed," said Cimo, whose team scored 26.05 on floor. "Pong was a little jittery on his first event (vault), but after that he was on fire."
After shining with a 9.7 on parallel bars, Elgin senior Steve Merena really put together a fantastic state meet to place eighth in the all-around with 51.85 points (8.6417 average).
Besides Merena, the Maroons also had a nice performance from freshman Nolan Williamson, who placed 18th overall under the bright lights.
"It was a stunning (parallel bars) routine, it was so beautiful, and to put that together at this point of the game really sets him up for tomorrow," said Elgin coach Steve Merena, who hopes his son can reach the finals on parallel bars Saturday night. "He (Williamson) is a freshman, he's here to gain experience, and hopefully it gets him on fire so that he wants to work hard the next few years."
Conant senior Blake Rossdeutcher put together a solid meet to place 15th in the all-around with 48.25 points. The Cougars lost their top two all-arounders to graduation after placing second in the state last year, including Joey Mauk, who is now competing at UIC.
"Blake had the best meet he's had all year and it's a lot less pressure with only one guy compared with having the whole team here," said Conant coach Mike Opsal. "It's interesting seeing the state meet now with the new scoring rules."
Youth was also served with Palatine as freshman Prakash Patel placed 16th overall with 48.15 points.
"I think it's pretty cool to make it as a freshman because this is probably the loudest meet I've ever been to. I know a lot of guys who are competing here, and it's great to compete against them," said Patel. "I hope that I can get here with our team some day and I think coach (Scott) Hagel is great at uniting the team."
Mundelein senior Cameron Mueller placed 19th overall (47.9) and he is a strong contender to make the finals on vault and still rings again.
"I'm very confident he can make the finals on still rings and vault," said Mundelein coach Jesse Piland, whose team could not reach the Elite Eight without the services of elite all-arounder Colin McCarthy. "He (Mueller) just has to keep doing what he's been doing all year and be consistent."