Vernon Hills snares Lake County championship
Vernon Hills has been reaching new heights and chalking up some of its highest scores in 20 years this season. The Cougars are still not known to many Lake County teams since they compete in the Central Suburban League North.
So, Vernon Hills had its opportunity and performed at a high level in taking the top spot with a 146.15, just ahead of Stevenson (145.775), Lake Zurich (145.525) and Carmel Catholic (142.475) at the Lake County girls gymnastics meet on Saturday in Mundelein.
The rest of the teams in the field were Lake Forest (136.95), Warren (136.83), District 117 co-op (135.2), Mundelein (132.7), Libertyville (130.95), Deerfield (129.65) and Barrington (124.4).
"Our score means a lot. We're not in the North Suburban (Conference) anymore, We don't see a lot of these schools," Vernon Hills coach Denise Caton said. "They're fantastic schools and state-caliber schools. It means a lot to be able to compete in state with the top schools we see year after year. It's really exciting to come out and perform really well."
Vernon Hills' highest finish in a state meet was fifth place, going back a couple of decades ago, and there could be a return trip next month.
"We're taking things day-by-day and week-by-week," Caton said. "Knowing (the girls) have the potential is keeping them going. It's the confidence in knowing, if we put in routine after routine every day together. We can be a top school and I think it's exciting for them. They know it's there, but I don't think they're letting it get to them."
Stevenson posted its season- best score, which has given the Patriots expectations to go even higher with the North Suburban Conference meet and the state series ahead of them.
"It's a reflection of how hard they've been working and working really hard at practice," Stevenson coach Judy Harwood said. "It's still not perfect and we can still go a little bit better. As we get to the end of the season, I'm hoping we can finish all the projects that we've started."
Rayna Kauffman of Lake Zurich finished strong with a 9.45 on the floor exercise, landing her in the top spot in a tie with Stevenson's Ally Gitler. Kauffman also was the bars champion (9.55) and won the all-around with a season-best 37.65.
"It was an exciting day and I took in the atmosphere with all the people here," Kauffman said. "The floor was pretty good, and I like to perform a lot. I just feel more confident to show what I could do."
Gitler was the runner-up in the all-around (37.6). She was second on bars with teammate Maya Fergus (9.35) and in a fifth-place tie with Becca Tran of Vernon Hills on vault (9.45).
Sarah Arends of Carmel finished in a third-place tie in the all-around with Shihori Takenaki of Vernon Hills with a 37.15. She also was third on beam (9.5) and tied for third with Warren's Amanda Hamann on the floor (9.4). This was Arends' first chance to compete in all four events in two years after elbow surgery last year and dealing with torn ligaments in her ankle. She's expected to have surgery after the season.
"It's hard to push through the injuries," Arends said. "Being with the team helps more to get through the days. It was nice to do the four events and it was an amazing feeling. I'm honestly shocked to just be competing all-around right now and to get third it feels nice."
Stevenson's Ashley Schabes shared the top spot on the vault with Annika Chudy of Vernon Hills and Hamann with a 9.55. Livy Tran of Vernon Hills finished fourth.
Chudy also placed fourth on the bars 9.3 and Takenaka was fifth (9.15).
Takenaka landed first on the beam (9.55). Carmel's Nina Kropiwiec was second (9.525). Lake Forest's Reagen Fisch was fourth (9.4) and Schabes was fifth (9.375). Schabes also was tied for fifth with District 117's Julia Blasinski on the floor (9.20) and placed fifth in the all-around (37.125).