Scouting Fox girls gymnastics

  • Gianna Murkowski is hoping to help the U-46 team improve on its top score of 121.65 last year.

      Gianna Murkowski is hoping to help the U-46 team improve on its top score of 121.65 last year. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Geneva's Olivia Takesue is one of the top returning gymnasts in the Fox area.

      Geneva's Olivia Takesue is one of the top returning gymnasts in the Fox area. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Olivia Bartolotta is part of a Batavia team that has its biggest turnout since 1999.

    Olivia Bartolotta is part of a Batavia team that has its biggest turnout since 1999. Jon Cunningham for the Daily Herald

By Chris Walker
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 12/2/2019 8:29 AM

2019-2020 Fox Valley Girls Gymnastics at a glance

Top teams: Batavia, Geneva, Prairie Ridge co-op


Top returning athletes: Olivia Bartolotta (Batavia, sr., all-around), Sydney Hallsten (Prairie Ridge, so., all-around), Maddie Kramer (St. Charles co-op, sr., all-around), Gianna Murkowski (U-46 co-op, sr., all-around), Taylor Novotny (Batavia, sr., all-around), Ashley Olea (St. Charles co-op, sr., all-around), Olivia Takesue (Geneva, jr., all-around), Kathryn Wendt (Geneva, jr., all-around), Grace Willis (Prairie Ridge, so., all-around)

Season skinny: Last year was the first time since 2007 that the area wasn't represented with a team at state. That says a lot about the quality of gymnasts that the area has been home to for a long time.

Batavia's doing handsprings and giants like it's 1999 as Bulldogs coach Taryn Boyce has the biggest Bulldogs team in 20 years.

"It's been a long time since our numbers were that high," Boyce said. "I think 1999."

The Bulldogs may not be "Delirious" but they appear destined for success. Seniors Olivia Bartolotta and Taylor Novotny return while sophomore Natalie Hayden is also one to keep an eye out for this winter. Senior Rachel Kauchak also has returned after a two-year absence. The Bulldogs also have 9 freshmen.

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"I wouldn't be surprised if JV and varsity go head-to-head," Boyce said. "I'm lucky to have such a large group of girls with great attitudes and strong work ethic."

The Bulldogs reached 134.05 last season and are primed to surpass that with a mix of the young and ambitious with the so-called old and experienced.

Geneva didn't lose a ton from last year's team, which nearly reached a 137. All-arounder Gracie De Vita's graduation hurts, but juniors Olivia Takesue and Kathryn Wendy, both sectional all-around qualifiers, are back along with sophomore Kate Nitschke who also advanced on bars and beam. Caitlin Cook is also among the returnees, and is the Vikings' lone senior, while coach Kim Hostman is also high on freshman Maura Anderson. Hostman said Cook should be strong on three events while Anderson likely will contribute on all four.

"This group has a strong potential to do well," Hostman said. "We're working a lot of skills that hopefully will be ready mid-season."

The Vikings have good numbers overall with a roster of 19.

Prairie Ridge co-op's streak of nine straight state appearances, including three consecutive state titles (2015-2017) was snapped last February, but with key returnees and talented newcomers, it should be among the state's elite.


"If everyone stays healthy, this is the most talented team I have ever had," Prairie Ridge co-op coach Lee Battaglia said. "If all goes well, I will have four all-arounders and one specialist on each event."

Sophomores Sydney Hallsten and Grace Willis and freshmen Gabby Riley and Paige Magel will be the team's top all-arounders. Senior Katie McEnery, sophomore Morgan Quinn (who suffered a knee injury at sectionals last year) and freshmen Audrey Burke and Sophia Krcik also will contribute.

"This is my largest team I have ever had," Battaglia explained. "I will be competing everybody throughout the course of the season. My top all-arounders will not compete on all the events until the end of the year, this way giving everyone a chance to compete."

St. Charles co-op fell just short of reaching a 130 last season, but should surpass that and do more thanks to being healthy, hardworking and talented. Coach Natalie Przybylski said junior Sydney Kamin and seniors Maddie Kramer and Ashley Olea are gymnasts to really watch. Kramer and Olea were sectional qualifiers in the all-around. Kamin returns from an ankle fracture.

"She will be a huge contributor to our team all around score," Przybylski said.

Kramer has upgraded her routines while Olea will provide amazing consistency. Many of the other returnees have upgraded their routines but the squad remains young with 10 underclassmen on the 14-gymnast roster. Jennifer Nickel, Gabby Potempa, Nicole Forde and Katie Vandeveer are among the returnees while some new talent may also enter the lineup.

U-46 co-op has been blessed with 23 gymnastics this season.

"We have much stronger numbers this year," coach Mary Kate Dieter said. "Bars have been a weakness in the past, but we have more depth to our talent in this event than last year."

Dieter and assistant coach Danielle Collins will lean on the leadership of seniors Jenna Hasenstein, Stephanie Amaya, Frannie Kuzyk and Gianna Murkowski.

"They have all been in the program a long time and bring a strong sense of leadership to our increasing numbers," Dieter said.

South Elgin freshman Zoe Lee, Bartlett sophomore Mady Aycock, Elgin junior Ceciley Garcia and Streamwood's Murkowski have looked strong in preparation for the season, and offer diversity in that each attends a different school and is in a different class year. You won't find that anywhere else in the state. Hit a high of 121.65 last winter.

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