Boys gymnastics to make a go of it on its own, without the IHSA

Time for a boys gymnastics update.

The most important aspect is there will be a season, and a state final, of sorts.

That was the word last time we visited the sport in July. It was more recently confirmed by Stevenson athletic director Tricia Betthauser, Hoffman Estates athletic director Steve Lacni, and Illinois High School Gymnastics Coaches Association board President C.J. Patton.

In a Nov. 16 email Lacni stated Hoffman Estates will be the venue for a "culminating event" on May 11.

A regular season, perhaps heavier on invitationals and lighter on duals and tri-meets, will start the second week in February as usual, Patton said. It allows more sharing of gymnastics officials and a host could charge entrance fees and visitor school fees, he said.

"We're going to work like heck to fundraise and make sure our season runs as normally and as smoothly as possible," said Patton, girls gymnastics coach at Lakes and junior varsity boys coach at Fremd.

To review, on June 12 the Illinois High School Association board of directors voted not to continue to support a state series in boys gymnastics.

In a September 2022 bylaw change, the threshold to trigger deletion of a sport or activity state series had been lowered to 7% from 10% participation of the IHSA's 814 members.

Seemingly, a more lenient measure. However, bylaw language was changed from consideration of eliminating a series to concrete "will be deleted" terminology should participation fall below 7%.

With 40 teams and five individuals competing last May at Hoffman Estates, boys gymnastics got the ax, as did the activity of debate. Girls gymnastics is on the cusp, around 8%.

Boys gymnastics now resides among the IHSA's "Emerging Sports and Activities," where officially 19 teams have registered. (Earlier this week the site showed 83 debate programs on the Emerging Sports list, already past 10%.)

Patton said there additionally has been much "unofficial support," despite seven schools that dropped boys gymnastics since last year's final - District 214 schools Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove, Hersey, Prospect and Rolling Meadows, plus Barrington and Mundelein, he said.

Patton figured most of those who competed in the 2023 state series will return.

"The purpose is to try to grow the sport of gymnastics as a whole," he said.

Toward that goal the IHSGCA has established a Gymnastics Unification Committee that is working with gymnastics club coaches and other gyms to increase involvement in the sport.

Lake Park athletic director Pete Schauer also introduced a proposal to the IHSA that would officially eliminate the boys gymnastics season and its contest limitation bylaws. That would open up the possibility of shifting a school-supported season to the fall so as not to compete with the club gymnastics season, and potentially gain more of those athletes.

The IHSA Legislative Commission on Nov. 27 will decide whether that proposal and 22 others - including significant ones previously reported on football districting and the enrollment multiplier for private schools - should advance to a vote by member schools.

"It falls on the coaches and the schools supporting gymnastics to make sure everything runs smoothly," Patton said.

He said the vast majority of gymnastics operations should remain the same, and obviously he is looking forward to it.

"I think the word here is 'optimistic.' I think everyone is excited to see what the season has to offer," Patton said.

"I think the schools that still have a program are grateful to still have the room to compete. Overall there's so much love for the sport that the only thing to do is to keep on swinging."

All-state flag football

The Chicago Bears, a leader in the push for girls flag football, this week named their first all-state team.

Willowbrook quarterback and safety Marli Smrz and wide receiver and safety Emma Anderlik each were first-team picks. They helped the defending champions to third place this season in the sport's second state tournament.

Stevenson quarterback Madi Kennedy also made the first team. The Patriots, representing their Lake County conference, were among nine league champions that advanced to the state tournament.

Second-team selections included McKenzie Edison (Willowbrook), Keira Finnegan (Stevenson), Cailey Salerno (Addison Trail) and Paige Simon (Glenbrook South).

Third-team picks included MeKalah Haywood (Addison Trail) and Lauren Isaac (Glenbrook South).

Honorable mentions included Nora Emerson (Loyola), Layah Glover (Round Lake), Aribella Spandiary (Maine South) and Leana Williams (Streamwood).

All 56 girls named were among 120 flag football players the Bears invited to a college showcase Nov. 4 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest. The 56 players also are invited to attend a dinner and recognition ceremony Nov. 29 at Halas Hall.

They did it

Last week's Sidelines suggested that after a couple close calls, "sooner or later" a member of Vernon Hills' boys bowling team was due a 300 game.

It came sooner.

On the day of the Nov. 16 article, one day after deadline, Vernon Hills' C.J. Mendoza bowled a perfect 300 game in a match against Evanston at Bowlero in Vernon Hills.

According to coach Bill Spigner's records it was the fourth 300 game by a Cougars boy. Nick Garpo, Jacob Gates and Noah Kalicki all scored perfect games.

Joseph Napierkowski came up just short, twice scoring 299.

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