Donovan, Glenbard East capture Upstate Eight championship
The two greatest seasons in Glenbard East girls gymnastics history have coincided with the continued improvement by senior all-around Kelsey Donovan.
"I've really made the climb and I'd rather do it that way, start freshman year lower and get better each year than start at a high spot and decrease," Donovan said.
"I'm really happy with my season. I'm happy with all four of my seasons. I'm just happy with how I've grown as a person and as a gymnast because it's been a wild ride."
Before the Rams go after another berth to the eight-team state meet, they added to their Upstate Eight Conference history Saturday by defending their title at Oswego High School.
The Rams' 142.45 held off Oswego co-op's season-high 140.80 after also going undefeated during the dual season. U-46 co-op was third with 129.15 points and third overall. Fenton and Glenbard South were sixth and seventh with 88.625 and 86.75 points.
In 2019 the Rams made their first team appearance at state, taking seventh after winning their first conference title with a then school-record 145.50 by .20 over DeKalb/Sycamore co-op, which moved this year to the DuPage Valley Conference.
Donovan, juniors Becca Honig and Kali Kartheiser, the Rams' only individual all-stater, and sophomore Erin Donovan, Kelsey's sister, return from that lineup.
"Last year was basically indescribable. This year we just wanted to come out and basically feel confident so going into regionals Monday (at Glenbard East), we feel confident there, too," Kelsey Donovan said. "We just wanted to do our best and support each other."
On Saturday the Donovans and Honig won their first individual conference titles.
Kelsey Donovan's 36.55 captured all-around. Honig won vault with 9.425 and floor exercise with 9.4 and Erin Donovan won uneven parallel bars with 9.3.
Kelsey Donovan won all-around by .025 over Honig with Erin Donovan's 35.80 third. For Kelsey Donovan, it's a long way from her only freshman top-five award being third on balance beam.
"I've never really won a lot in high school gymnastics, so taking the all-around title at this meet, it's just a really good way to end my senior (regular) season," Kelsey Donovan said. "Becca's my biggest (all-around) competition. We've been like this all season, but I think that works for us because we find a way push each other every meet to get better and better."
Honig won vault with her pike Tsukahara by .075 with Kelsey Donovan third and Erin Donovan fourth. Honig won floor by .2 over second-place Kelsey Donovan.
"I've been getting a lot of seconds and third on vault so it's finally nice to win at a big meet like this," Honig said. "I just feel more confidence with my vaults. I think that's the good part about it."
On uneven bars Erin Donovan, Kartheiser's 9.15 and Kelsey Donovan's 9.0 finished 1-2-3. On beam, the Rams' first event, Kelsey Donovan and Honig finished 3-4 with 9.025 and 9.0. Riley Olson and Ella Kud added top-10 finishes.
"I worked so hard during the off-season to get that pirouette bail in, to try and hit my handstand (on uneven bars)," Erin Donovan said. "To be able to win something just shows how much I've worked and how much I've improved."
Kartheiser, who missed earlier meets because of a back injury, was limited to only bars Saturday because of sickness. Competing on everything but vault Tuesday, she helped the Rams' strongest lineup this season score an all-time best 145.85 against Geneva.
"I'm really proud of us. We don't ever really have our full team because there's always something," Honig said. "We know we can do so many things. (Tuesday) was at full strength and we did really well. I just think the confidence and being healthy is what helps us."
U-46's Madi Aycock was fourth on uneven bars with an 8.8, sixth on beam and shared eighth on floor. Senior Gianna Murkowski tied for 10th on uneven bars.
A sophomore from Bartlett, Aycock is in her first season of high school gymnastics.
"It's all new. I'm really nervous because I don't know if I'm going to make it to state. I do really want to but there's hard competition," Aycock said.
"I've never really had a conference before, sectionals or anything. This is all new to me and so it's really cool to be up on the (awards) podium. It's a different experience."
Fenton's Audrey Benitez was 15th in all-around with 26.525. Senior Katie Weiss tied for 19th on floor and was Glenbard South's top all-arounder with 23.15.