After the Conant boys gymnastics sectional Saturday in Hoffman Estates, Conant's Joey Mauk was encouraged by his teammates, family and friends to climb on top of the parallel bars.
Mauk sheepishly complied and then stood with each foot on a bar, with his arms crossed, looking like royalty.
Mauk had all the reason to look like a king after conquering the parallel bars earlier with a state-record 9.90. Mauk's score helped Conant win the sectional with a 154.60 to earn the team's first trip to state finals in three years. The Cougars will compete for the state title with seven other teams next Friday at Lincoln-Way East in Frankfort.
"I was aiming for a 9.7," Mauk said. "But I'll take a 9.9. I am not sure what I missed. I think there was a little leg separation on one of my Giants or Moys."
Mauk was mobbed by his teammates after his score was flashed.
"I really paid attention to everything I was doing," Mauk said. "And I was just keeping it really clean."
Conant cleaned up too as the Cougars erased the disappointments of the last two seasons, when they just missed qualifying for state.
"There is a sense of relief," Conant coach Mike Opsal said. "We are going to state. The kids have been kind of expecting this the past couple of weeks, but they still have worked very hard."
Conant's score of 154.60 puts the Cougars with the second-highest team score headed to state behind Wheaton co-op's 161.00. It was even more meaningful to Brian Reedy, who along with Mauk and Blake Rossdeutcher, qualified as individuals last year.
"It will be so much more meaningful this year," Reedy said. "Lots of guys went down last year to watch. But you could tell that they were not as excited because they weren't in it. This year it is going to be great."
Rossdeutcher was also excited that the whole Conant team will be there.
"It was really fun last year," said Rossdeutcher, who qualified last year as sophomore. "But I am expecting it to be even better this year. It is just going to be a better atmosphere because everyone will be there."
Not only did the Cougars qualify as team, but they are sending six different gymnasts to compete in the individual finals. Mauk, who won the all-around with a 53.85, will compete in all 6 events. He also won the sectional title on the floor with a 9.25, the rings with a 9.25, the vault with a 9.15 to go with his title on the parallel bars.
Reedy, who placed third in the all-around with a 50.90, qualified in four other events. Rossdeutcher, who was fifth in the all-around with a 47.80, qualified in two other events while Zach Davis also qualified in two events while Josh Hoppe and Brandon Metcalf each qualified in one event.
"This is what the guys have worked so hard for," Opsal said. "We have one more week left and it is going to be fun."
Also having fun was Lake Park's Sam Flory, who won the pommel horse with an 8.85 and was fourth in the all-around with a 49.40.
"I was going into this meet, worried about qualify for state," said Flory, who advanced in 5 events. "It was what kind of message you were going to send to the judges. Are you going to be just one other kid to qualify for state, or are you going into it knowing that you are going be in the top 10?"
Lake Park, which finished second with a 135.90, will be sending Chris Avvisati, who will be competing in three events.
Elgin's Steve Marena, who was 14th in the state last year in the all-around will be looking to improve on that finish. Marena, who is a junior, finished second in the all-around Saturday with a 52.20. Marena also won the high bar with an 8.50 and qualified in all six events.
Schaumburg, which was third with a 120.45, will be sending three gymnast to the finals. Elliot Lam and Palak patel each qualified on the pommel horse while Mat Sigler made it through on the vault.
"We were hoping to get a few guys through," Schaumburg coach Erik Bostrom said. "Since we are young team, we want our guys to get a feel for state."
Hoffman Estates finished fourth with a 115.90. The Hawks were able to qualify Alan Peralta on the rings and Michael Rodriguez on the parallel bars.
Leyden's Tavaris Fletcher and Elk Grove's Tom Valadez both qualified on the vault.