Scouting DuPage County girls gymnastics
Top teams: Downers Grove co-op, Glenbard East, Glenbard West, Hinsdale Central, Lake Park, Wheaton co-op, York.
Top returning individuals: Alina Bhagwakar (Glenbard West, so., all-arounder), Mia Bowers (Downers Grove co-op, jr., all-arounder), Katrina Carlson (Downers Grove co-op, so., all-arounder), Destiny Carter (Waubonsie Valley, sr., all-arounder), Megan Cronin (York, sr., bars, floor, vault), Kelsey Donovan (Glenbard West, sr., all-arounder), Natalie Gillis (Wheaton co-op, sr., vault, beam, floor), Rebecca Honig (Glenbard East, jr., all-arounder), Kali Kartheiser (Glenbard East, jr., all-arounder), Caroline Klobach (Hinsdale Central, sr., all-arounder), Julia Kurek (Lake Park, sr., bars, floor), Jamie LaBue (Wheaton co-op, sr., all-arounder), Ella Linkowski (Hinsdale South, jr., all-arounder), Baylee Modaff (Neuqua Valley, jr., all-arounder), Sarah Ozeki (Glenbard North, jr., all-arounder), Maryalice Shockey (York, so., all-around), Racquel Suhr (Lake Park, jr., all-arounder), Kesley Sumser (Naperville North, jr. all-arounder).
Outlook: The top team in the area appears to be Glenbard East. The Rams have just about everyone coming back, but don't count out two-time defending state champion Glenbard West either. The Rams only lost a couple of seniors, including state scores from Sierra Olson on vault and beam, but all-arounders Erin Donovan, Kelsey Donovan, Rebecca Honig and Karli Kartheiser return along with some newcomers, including freshman Ella Kud. The Hilltoppers' only true varsity returnees are Anna Diab and Alina Bhagwakar, but they believe "tradition never graduates." There will be new faces, but many of these kids were sharp at the JV level. Three freshmen will also mix in. Diab is a healthy all-arounder now after being limited to beam last season.
Wheaton Warrenville co-op will rely heavily on seniors, including all-arounder Jamie LaBue, specialists Maura Clark, Bridget Kennedy, Natalie Gillis and Caroline Gillis and junior all-arounder Emily Burnham. Underclassmen Ava Archulette and Sam Nepras join the squad.
Downers Grove co-op is a new team comprised of North and South kids after longtime Trojans coach Linda Reynolds retired. "They didn't find a coach," Reynolds said, "so Downers Grove North co-oped with Downers Grove South." Sophomore Katrina Carlson, juniors Mia Bowers, Melina Pipilas and Gabby Stellato and seniors Lauren Lucina and Cherylin Parrilli, give the team more than enough all-arounders, while three freshmen also are strong.
Lake Park just fell short of hitting a 140 last winter. The Lancers will look to get there with most of the same gymnasts, including Paula and Julie Naronowicz, Olivia Perez, Racquel Suhr and Julia Kurek.
Neuqua Valley, which scored in the high 130s last season, will be hurt by Jane Riehs not coming back, but the return of junior Baylee Modaff and sophomores Susan Jones and Amelia Wachtel will form the Wildcats' nucleus. Lauren Cordero is a promising freshman to watch.
York, which had a high of 136.9 in January, looks to continue its rise with senior Megan Cronin and sophomores Maryalice Shockey, Martha Miklyukh, Lily Cmiel and Angelina Deblasio back in action and freshmen Kalina Ceglinski joining the squad. The Dukes will be especially strong on floor and vault.
Waubonsie Valley/Metea Valley co-op welcomes back sisters Thera and Thalia Bowen along with Destiny Carter. The team peaked in the mid-130s a season ago. Newcomers Stephanie Svec, Emily Thompson, Mahalaxmi Some and Ava Daudelin will provide depth and help fill some holes.
Hinsdale Central, which scored as high as 135.7 a season ago, has an influx of new talent, including freshmen Nina Marino, C.C. Huber and Charlotte French, sophomore Athena Koulouris and senior Olivia Widtfeldt. That mix along with returning all-arounders Annettee Sommers and Caroline Klobach could result in a really special finish.
Naperville North has talent but has to stay healthy. Junior Kelsey Sumser and seniors Emma Ryan and Chloe Tsao are back, sophomore Kate Kristle is healthy and freshman Abby Aldrich is new. The Huskies scored in the 131-133 range last year.
Hinsdale South returns six seniors along with junior Ella Linkowski and a couple key newcomers. That said, the Hornets should be pretty solid and last year's high score of 127.35 should be within reach.
Glenbard North is the last of the remaining DuPage County schools to score a 125 or higher last season. The team primarily consists of junior standout Sarah Ozeki, a healthy Katie Wagner, seniors Lauren Thiesen and Sydney Olejnik and some talented freshmen. The Panthers are a team on the rise for new coach Denny Wellman.
Naperville Central welcomes Christina Tardy (Class of 2008) as its new coach. Tardy said the Redhawks would have Delaney Sterr and Joanna Huang back but will be young.
Addison Trail welcomes back junior all-arounders Delaney Gregory and Francesca Scarbaggio.
Willowbrook coach Deanna Zuchowski said her team has been inspired by the football team's run. The Warriors add three freshmen all-arounders, while senior Karli Wilson is among the returnees.
Fenton senior Emily Trzmielewski returns for a young Bison squad. Glenbard South lost a lot to graduation.
-- Chris Walker