Girls gymnastics: Warren's Hamann, Hersey's Nemcek win state titles
Warren senior Amanda Hamann uttered three deliberate syllables to describe the Yurchenko tuck-full vaults she threw in the warm-up session before Saturday's girls gymnastics state meet at Palatine.
"Hor-ri-ble," the Blue Devil recalled. "Didn't land one of them. Crunched my ankle, too."
Slotted third among the 11 finalists on vault, Hamann -- who hadn't attempted the tough self-launch atop mats before Saturday -- stood at one end of the runway and exhaled a Category 5 hurricane wind.
On your mark, get set ...
"As I ran," Hamann said, "I didn't hear the crowd. When I landed and saw that my feet hadn't moved, I was in shock. My eyes widened. Then I started to cry.
"I was so happy."
Her 9.775 vault, in four delightful syllables: mag-nif-i-cent.
Golden, too. She tied Lake Park junior Julia Bartnik for first place and became the first Warren female gymnast to win an event at state since Kim Gotlund topped the bars field in 2010.
"It had been a goal of mine for a while, winning vault at this meet," said Hamann, fourth on vault at the state event finals last winter and a future nursing student -- as well as a gymnastics walk-on candidate -- at the University of Iowa.
"Adrenaline helped me today."
Resilience aided Hersey sophomore Sabrina Nemcek on Saturday. Shortly after executing a clean bail on bars, she stopped, briefly, in the middle of a sole circle. But she regrouped, quickly and smoothly, and completed a field-topping 9.525 routine.
"As soon as I finished my (double-back) dismount," I heard my coach (Shannon Barrett) say, 'State champion,' " said Nemcek, who'd executed a program-record 9.6 on bars in Friday's state preliminaries. "Bars is an event that requires upper-body strength, but training, training, training is just as important."
The last Hersey female gymnast to collect state gold in an event did so when the USA women's gymnastics team competed at the Barcelona Summer Olympics in ... 1992. Former Huskies superstar Kathy Kautz dominated in Illinois 31 years ago, taking first place on bars and floor to go with her all-around title.
Glenbrook North senior Betsy Alcorn earned her first two career state medals on Saturday, silvering on bars (9.425) and on beam (9.475). Three bobbles on beam in Friday's prelims resulted in a shaky-but-good-enough-to-advance score of 8.975.
"Solid, so solid today," Spartans coach Julie Holmbeck said. "Betsy showed tremendous composure."
Alcorn last qualified for state as a freshman. Her junior season ended at a sectional.
"I was a little stressed Friday," admitted Alcorn, who wants to be a physical therapist, like her mother, Amy, and will always be grateful for the role gymnastics played in developing her formidable work ethic. "I had fun today, especially on beam.
"Did I expect to medal twice? No, not at all. But it was a goal."
Only one other Spartan, Dawn Burke, in program history had taken a state runner-up medal home; none has captured gold in an event. Burke took second on beam in 1978.
Vernon Hills improved its Friday prelim score of 144.9 to 144.975 on Saturday, thanks to the sharp event finals routines of junior Annika Chudy and sophomore Livy Tran. Chudy tied for bronze on vault (9.7), matching Tran's finish on floor (9.5). Chudy and Tran each climbed a podium to receive a shiny fifth-place prize as well, after scoring a 9.25 on beam and a 9.675 on vault, respectively.
Tran also swung to an eighth-place 9.15 on bars.
Team VH finished second at state for the second consecutive year, this time to Downers Grove co-op (145.575). Vernon Hills seniors Becca Tran and Jessica DeLorm and juniors Christina Raquel and Sarah Gutowski also performed gigs atop mats in Friday's prelim session.
The team's invaluable seventh component? Easy. Vernon Hills' Mom Squad. Livy Tran designed the sweatshirts worn by the quintet Friday and Saturday.
"Love," Cougars coach Denise Caton said. "That's what our team was all about this season. The girls love gymnastics, love to compete, love being together. I know Annika and Livy were tired today, but they were ready to go as soon as that green flag (from the judge) went up.
"And our team's moms -- they were everything to us. They did all the behind-the-scenes things, like building our bouquets and creating signs. You're not going to find a more supportive group than that one."
You could not have found a more decorated athlete than Libertyville senior Anna Becker at Palatine on Saturday. The Wildcat bowed for the gold medal she had earned Friday as the state's top all-arounder (38.175), received three more top-five medals (third place, bars, 9.325; fourth, beam, 9.325; fourth, floor, 9.5) and was named Senior Gymnast of the Year (based on talent and sportsmanship) by the Illinois High School Girls Gymnastics Coaches Association (IHSGGCA).
Have a day, Ms. Becker.
"I'm going to miss this sport, my teammates and my coaches," Becker said. "There's nothing like the atmosphere in gymnastics. There's no other sport like it.
"Flying through the air at meets gave me such a rush."
Fremd senior Abby Gallicho and Palatine senior Riley Strahl tied for fifth place on bars with 9.25s; Stevenson senior Ashley Schabes finished sixth on beam (9.2), ahead of Mundelein sophomore Isla Rehm (eighth, 8.975) and Lake Zurich junior Gianna Mirabella (10th, 8.95); and Leyden senior Sefora Hanc placed ninth on bars (9.0).
The IHSGGCA named Downers Grove co-op's Kristyn Campos Coach of the Year. ... VH coach Denise Caton attended Jacobs when the high school did not field a girls gymnastics team. She competed in gymnastics at Illinois State University.