Girls gymnastics: Scouting the 2021-2022 season in the Northwest suburbs

  • Hoffman Estates' Elyssa Wuerffel finished 11th in the state on the floor exercise during her sophomore season.t

      Hoffman Estates' Elyssa Wuerffel finished 11th in the state on the floor exercise during her sophomore season.t Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

By Mike Miazga
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 12/2/2021 7:23 PM

Buffalo Grove BisonCoach: Kristen Prokup

Top returning gymnasts: Hannah Fricke, sr., (vault, bars, floor), Anna Lang, sr., (all-around), Leah Oyen (all-around), Olivia Tangorra (all-around)


Top new gymnasts: Mackenzie Matsuda, fresh., (all-around), Ally Krause, soph., (bars, beam)

Outlook: Prokup said one major strength she has seen so far is the strong leadership from the team's upperclassmen. She's also been impressed by her team's kindness and support for each other, as well as its ability to overcome last year. Individually, Prokup has been pleased with the progress Tangorra, Matsuda and Oyen have made. "Olivia is a strong competitor and all-arounder," she said. "Mackenzie is a talented freshman who adds depth to the team." Oyen is coming back from an injury. "Leah is typically a strong all-arounder," Prokup said. Prokup added Prospect is a team to keep an eye on in the conference. "Last year, the teams were competitive and are anticipated to continue this way," she said.

Conant CougarsCoach: Anthony Avella

Last year's conference finish: 3rd

Top returning gymnasts: Mikaela Kaminski, sr., (all-around), Bri Kaminski, soph., (all-around), Allegra Chapp, jr., (all-around), Sophia Presta, jr., (all-around)

Top new gymnasts: Elena Ruffolo, jr., (all-around)

Outlook: Avella likes the progress he has seen so far in the practice gym. "Our strength is using each competition as an indicator of how we are practicing and adjusting for improvement throughout the season," he said. "We have only practiced for two weeks, but this team already has positive chemistry and has been putting in the work to improve themselves." Avella said Mikaela Kaminski has been hard at work adding "some impressive upgrades," while Bri Kaminski was injured most of last season, "but is showing great promise, having put in the time and effort in the offseason," he said. Ruffolo was on the JV team last year. "I am looking forward to seeing Elena improve as the season progresses," Avella said. In terms of the MSL, "The MSL teams all produce high-quality gymnasts year in and year out so this year should be no different with the sheer amount of talent within the conference," he said.

Elk Grove GrenadiersCoach: Abi Diaz

Last season's conference finish: 11th MSL

Top returning gymnasts: Adrianne Vergara, soph., (all-around), Makayla Eugene, sr., (bars, beam)

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Top new gymnasts: Natalia Maksymowiz, fresh., (floor, beam, bars), Victoria Kelner (floor, beam, vault, bars)

Outlook: Vergara was injured last year, missing the last two meets and the MSL meet. "Adrianne is a very strong gymnast with a lot of motivation," Diaz said. "She is a very fast learner." Maksymowiz and Kelner both are freshmen who have high ceilings. "Natalie is a freshman with a gymnastics background and is very competitive. Victoria is a fearless freshman ready to try any skill," Diaz said. Diaz noted a strength for the Grens is the unity between athletes and support they have for one another. "The upper classmates stop to help out new members," Diaz said. "It's definitely a very impressive collaboration between the girls."

Fremd VikingsCoach: Kacey Kronforst

Last year's conference finish: 9th MSL

Top returning gymnasts: Kacey Tokunaga, jr., (all-around), Ella Gray, sr., (all-around)

Top new gymnasts: Olivia D'Angelo, soph., (vault, beam, floor), Julia White, soph., (all-around)

Outlook: Kronforst said Fremd is looking strong on beam, in particular, Gray and Tokunaga, Kronforst said, have put in a lot of work during the off-season. "I'm excited to see it play out," she said. D'Angelo and White both competed last year, but didn't get the experience of a full season due to a limited pandemic-forced schedule. "This team doesn't shy away from hard work," Kronforst noted. "They are a determined group of athletes and will work their hearts out to reach their goals. They have a great team dynamic, a ton of respect and support for one another, and will push each other to get the job done. We are a young team and don't have a lot of experience yet, but we have great leadership and our more experienced athletes will help the younger ones." Kronforst said keep an eye on Barrington in the conference this season.

Hersey HuskiesCoach: Shannon Barrett

Last season's conference finish: 2nd MSL East; 6th MSL

Top returning gymnasts: Emma Hupp, sr., (all-around), Taylor Woolsey, sr., (all-around), Lauren Bayer, jr., (all-around)


Top new gymnasts: Sabrina Nemcek, fresh., (all-around), Gianna Mazzola, fresh., (all-around)

Outlook: Hupp was a state qualifier in 2019-2020. Hupp along with freshman Nemcek headline the Huskies' varsity roster. "Emma and Sabrina have a chance to really shine this year," Barrett said. "If they hit 4 for 4, they can be Top 5." Barrett is excited about the team chemistry factor this season. "We have a strong team with close bond," she said. "They work hard and had a really great off-season. What impresses me the most is the family they have become. They spend time together bonding outside practice."

Hoffman Estates HawksCoach: David Calisch

Top returning gymnasts: Elyssa Wuerrfel, sr., (all-around), Sol Serratos, sr., (all-around), Paige Biggs, sr., (all-around), Lili Cabral, sr., (all-around), Nikki Thakkar, sr., (all-around), Victoria Rodriguez Marialejandra Gimenez-Colina, sr., (all-around)

Outlook: Wuerffel was a conference medalist in every event last year and earned state berths freshman and sophomore years. She was 11th in the state on floor sophomore year. Serratos missed last season due to an injury. "They have been a very tightknit group," Calisch said. "Our strength is in our seniors. They have been together for such a long time that they really are like a family. It is where they will find their strength and motivation, and it is such an important team quality that I am hoping our underlevels will pick up on and emulate this unity moving forward."

Leyden EaglesCoach: Jennifer Hayes

Last season's conference finish: 4th

Top returning gymnasts: Lily Dodgers, sr., (all-around), Sefora Hanc, jr., (all-around)

Top new gymnasts: Kasey Macleod, soph., (all-around)

Outlook: Hanc was West Suburban Gold runner-up on beam and ninth on bars last year, while Dodgers was eighth on beam. "This team has many strong gymnasts, and we will have more competition choosing the top five to compete for varsity," Hayes said. "What impresses me the most is the hard work and dedication. They are all excited to finally have a normal season, and they show that enthusiasm in practice every day." Hayes said the Downers Grove co-op team is one to keep an eye on within the conference.

Maine East Blue DemonsCoach: Dan Nguyen

Last year's conference finish: 4th

Top returning gymnasts: Megan Espinoza, jr., (all-around), Tiffany Tonsul, sr., (all-around), Ariel Aguilera, sr., (all-around)

Top new gymnasts: Dannika-Faith Olea (beam, vault), Lucia Guzman, soph.., Abril Arriaga, fresh., Stephanie Vu, fresh.

Outlook: Espinoza had a strong freshman year and is now a team captain, while Tonsul and Aguilera were part of a nearly undefeated frosh-soph team when they were freshmen. "The strengths of this team will be dedication to the team and the willingness to take every opportunity they can to better themselves," Nguyen said. "This means they'll be consistently practicing, taking as many turns as they can on the events, and conditioning consistently every day at the end of practice." Regarding Espinoza, Nguyen noted she put in added work in the offseason at American Academy of Gymnastics. "She is a perfectionist in everything she tries to do," he said. "Her beam and floor are starting to extend out of her own comfort zones and reach to those sectional/state levels." Nguyen said Vernon Hills, which hit a 141.15 in a recent meet, is a team to watch in the Central Suburban.

Maine South HawksCoach: Heidi Bowbin

Last season's conference finish: 4th

Top returning gymnasts: Anastasia Gritsonis, soph., (all-around), Madelyn Rutherford, soph., (all-around), Annie Middendorf, sr., (beam, floor), Anna Bridges, sr., (all-around), Silvia Buti, jr., (beam and floor), Bridget Pistorius, sr., (beam, bars), Kristina Petkovic, sr., (beam, floor), Grace Bolech, soph., (all-around)

Top new gymnasts: Gabbi McCants, soph., (bars, beam), Jenna Simandirakis, soph., (all-around)

Outlook: "This team has depth," Bowbin said. "The girls have been working hard in the offseason to make this season their best yet." The Hawks will be strong on beam led by senior Middendorf, a state qualifier as a freshman and was part of that team's third-place state finals finish. Gritsonis will be a key contributor on beam, vault and floor, while Rutherford is an up-and-coming all-arounder. "What impressed me the most about this group is its motivation to succeed not only as individuals but as a team," Bowbin said. In terms of the conference, Bowbin calls it one of the toughest in the state with New Trier and the Glenbrooks. "It is my hope our team will peak at the right time and give them all a run for their money," she said. "We have the talent to do so."

Maine West WarriorsCoach: Amanda Harrison

Last year's conference finish: 5th

Top returning gymnasts: Audrey Peters, sr., (all-around), Emilia Michalek, sr., (all-around), Lilly Bain, soph., (all-around)

Top new gymnasts: Maya Woroszylo, fresh., (all-around)

Outlook: Harrison noted Woroszylo, Peters and Bain have sectional-qualifying potential and a chance at being a conference medalist. In terms of team strengths? "The bond," Harrison said. "They are always willing to help each other and the younger teammates. They are a strong group of girls that is always improving their skills and they work very well together."

Palatine PiratesCoach: Terry Theobald

Last season's conference finish: 2nd

Top returning gymnasts: Jocie Waddington, sr., (all-around), Kaci Wimer, sr., (all-around), Riley Strahl, jr., (all-around), Madde Weber, soph., (all-around), Emily Ziemba, jr., (all-around), Leah Bellof, jr., (all-around)

Top new gymnasts: Morgan McGrath, soph., (all-around)

Outlook: Palatine hit a 145.00 at the MSL meet last season. "We're young and talented with only two seniors," Theobald pointed out. Theobald added this team grew up together through the Palatine Park District. Keep an eye on senior Waddington. Theobald pegs Barrington, Palatine, Conant and Fremd as MSL contenders.

Prospect KnightsCoach: Monica Donner

Last year's conference finish: 5th

Top returning gymnasts: Emily Gianfransesco, soph., (all-around), Kaiya Koyanagi, sr., (beam, floor)

Top new gymnasts: Angelina Rago, jr., (all-around)

Outlook: Donner said Prospect will be strong on floor and beam. She's been impressed with "how they push and motivate each other to do their best every day," she said. Gianfransesco and Koyanagi, Donner noted, are state-qualifier contenders on floor and beam. Prospect opened its season with wins on all levels against Fremd. Gianfransesco was first in the all-around at 34.95. Prospect scored a 130 on the varsity level.

Rolling Meadows MustangsCoach: Michael Costa

Last season's conference finish: 4th

Top returning gymnasts: Melina Moreno, jr., (all-around), Caitlin Widawski, jr., (all-around), Abby Adams, sr., (all-around), Brooklyn Hextall, jr., (all-around), Katherine Davenport, jr., (all-around)

Top new gymnasts: Anna Broncato, jr, (all-around)

Outlook: "We have a pretty good balance across all events," Costa said. "I think we will be strong on beam and floor. This group is extremely talented. The most impressive thing is their ability to continue skill development." Costa said Moreno has enormous potential to be a threat in the MSL, while Widowski's continued skill improvement and Hextal's consistency and good-is-not-good-enough attitude will be great assets this season. Costa noted Hersey and Prospect are teams that have to be watched in the MSL East.

Schaumburg SaxonsCoach: Eric Harima

Top returning gymnasts: Chali Baumann, jr., (all-around), Mallorie Page, sr., (floor, beam, vault)

Top new gymnasts: Amy Carhee, fresh., (all-around)

Outlook: Harima, the boys gymnastics coach at Schaumburg, takes over the Saxons' girls program. "We are in a state of rebuilding this year," he noted. "Half our varsity team is freshmen and sophomores, so that is promising for the future. These girls impress me with their determination and attitude. They always come in ready to practice and work hard. Baumann is back after missing last year recovering from surgery. Harima also is high on freshman Carhee, "who is constantly surprising me this year," he said.

Wheeling WildcatsCoach: Jackie Share

Top returning gymnasts: Leslie Alfaro, jr., (all-around)

Top new gymnasts: Sarah Wieser, fresh., (all-around), Julia Veverka, fresh., (all-around), Katie Moser, fresh., (all-around)

Outlook: Share is in her first season as Wildcats' head coach. "We have a strong group of freshmen gymnasts coming in with a solid foundation," she said. "The girls are hardworking and charismatic. This year's team is quite goal-oriented. They know which skills they want to achieve in this competitive setting. They are enthusiastic and excited to try new things." Alfaro, Share said, is a gymnast with a true heart for the sport. "Leslie not only has impressive gymnastics ability, she also is true leader by example," she said.

Did not respond to requests for information: Barrington

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