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updated: 1/31/2018 11:04 PM

Girls gymnastics: Conant steams to regional title at Palatine

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  • Conant's Danielle Smith competes on the floor exercise during the Palatine regional Wednesday.

      Conant's Danielle Smith competes on the floor exercise during the Palatine regional Wednesday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Hoffman Estates' Karli Ryan competes on the balance beam during the Palatine regional Wednesday.

      Hoffman Estates' Karli Ryan competes on the balance beam during the Palatine regional Wednesday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Conant's Bailey Bloom competes on the uneven parallel bars during the Palatine regional Wednesday.

      Conant's Bailey Bloom competes on the uneven parallel bars during the Palatine regional Wednesday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Palatine's Abby Amato competes on vault during the Palatine regional Wednesday.

      Palatine's Abby Amato competes on vault during the Palatine regional Wednesday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Molly Meehan of Jacobs competes on the floor exercise during the Palatine regional Wednesday.

      Molly Meehan of Jacobs competes on the floor exercise during the Palatine regional Wednesday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
By Michael Eaken
Daily Herald Correspondent

The tension was at a boiling point at the Palatine girls gymnastics regional on Wednesday night, with the host Pirates and Conant locked in a tight battle.

Palatine had jumped out to an early lead after two events, but Conant came on strong on the floor and then hung on during the beam, which was the final event, to edge the Pirates 139.825-139.525 and claim a second consecutive regional title.

"It was one of the most nerve-wracking meets I've been in," said Conant coach Anthony Avella, whose Cougars who won their 14th regional title. "We were just fighting for every tenth of a point."

Hoffman Estates took third with 134.575 points, followed by Maine East (120.75).

Conant joins Prairie Ridge co-op and Fremd as automatic team qualifiers to the Hoffman Estates sectional next Wednesday.

Palatine also seems to be in a good spot to pick up one of the two at-large bids as they hold the highest non-qualifying team mark, with only the Maine South regional remaining.

Sophomore Kennedy O'Connor powered the Cougars' attack by taking first in the all-around (36.275), while sophomore Julia Betts added a bit of energy by taking third in the all-around (35.175).

The floor proved to be the pivotal event for the Cougars as O'Connor and senior Bailey Bloom tied for first with a 9.225. Betts (9.05) tied for a third-place finish and freshman Danielle Smith (8.85) took sixth.

"We talked about showing it off on the floor," said O'Connor, who also took second on the vault (9.475), third on the beam (8.95), and fifth on the bars (8.625) in a solid performance. "It feels really good to know all the hard work is paying off."

Betts missed a chunk of the season due to a foot injury, but since returning in late January she has given the Cougars' attack a positive jolt. Despite not yet being 100 percent healthy, the Cougars sophomore showed a some grit by taking fourth on the vault (9.275), and adding a clutch fifth-place finish on beam (8.8).

"It's really exciting," said Betts. "I'm just glad I could do the best I could for the team."

Palatine suffered an early setback when freshman Elly Nilsen went out after her first vault attempt in the opening rotation. But the Pirates rebounded nicely on bars by taking three of the top five spot to grab the early lead.

Senior Abby Amato led the charge by taking first on bars (9.05), and was followed by freshman Alyssa Eckels (8.975) in second and junior Kristen Ure (8.65) in fourth.

"After seeing the final score we were kind of bummed," said Amato, who finished fourth in the all-around (34.75). "But we know there is still hope and we know we can still clean some things up.

"Bars is our strong suit right now, we are hoping to use that momentum to carry over to all the other events."

Eckels took second in the all-around (35.85), tied for third on the floor (9.05) and added a fifth-place finish on vault (9.10). Ure took fifth in the all-around (34.5) and fourth on beam (8.9).

Hoffman Estates sophomore Karli Ryan was off to a flying start after taking first on vault (9.7) and third on bars (8.875).

She continued her momentum with a first-place finish on beam (9.175) -- but injured her knee on her dismount and was held out for the final event, on floor.

"When I landed, I heard a pop," said Ryan. "I'm just hoping it gets better for sectional next week. I'll just have to work really hard with the trainer this week."

Sophomore Charlee Campos aided the Hawks' attack by taking second on beam (8.975).

"I'm just feeling really confident right now on beam," said Campos of her nifty beam performance. "I've been making improvements throughout the season and it felt good to hit tonight."

Jacobs senior Molly Meehan advanced to the sectional meet with a second-place finish on vault (9.425).

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