Scouting Fox and DuPage County girls gymnastics

Top returning teams: Downers Grove co-op, Geneva, Glenbard West, Lake Park, St. Charles co-op, Wheaton co-op

Top returning athletes: Batavia - (Wynne Tien, So., all-around); Downers Grove co-op - (Genevieve Herion, Jr., all-around), (Madison Piotrowski, Sr., all-around); Geneva - (Reese Lackey, So., all-around), (Brooke Lussnig, Sr., all-around); Glenbard West - (Leah Chapski, Jr., all-around), (Mackenzie Mason, So., floor, vault); Lake Park - (Julia Bartnik, Sr., all-around), (Cali Keefe, Sr., all-around); St. Charles co-op - (Rachel Nicastro, Jr., all-around); Wheaton co-op - (Haylie Hinckley, Sr., all-around), (Jordan Wach, Sr., all-around)

Season outlook: Addison Trail has "a strong core of varsity athletes this year who are devoted toward developing new skills and competing at a high level," according to coach Mike Galfi, who likes the talent he sees in the gym in Addison. "We hope to send most of our team to the sectional competition, including a few who have a great chance at qualifying for the state competition."

Senior all-arounder Nicolette Franczak returns to lead the Blazers while sophomore all-arounder Mia Trombatore joins the squad.

Batavia climbed into the high 130s last season and is determined to return there. "We have some very determined gymnasts this season who worked hard during the offseason and continue to push themselves now in preparation for upcoming meets," Bulldogs coach Taryn Boyce said. "Our large group of freshmen last year have returned as leaders, motivated to succeed and have a strong work ethic. Our seniors and captains have instilled the importance of working as a team and helping each other achieve their goals."

Sophomore Wynne Tien, a sectional all-around qualifier last season, returns along with seniors Delia Fulton, Sophia Brummel, Marisa Serpico and others while Ava Platt joins the team.

Downers Grove co-op is the defending state champ for the first time ever, but the Trostangs said goodbye to some key contributors like Natalie Simpson, Emily Smetana and Kate Snouffer who took 13th in the state in the all-around.

"This season we look to add in new faces to the lineup," Trostangs coach Kristyn Campos said. "Many of the girls on the team were used as alternates last year and will need to step into more active competition roles."

Junior Genevieve Herion, who took third in the all-around and qualified for the finals in all four events, returns to lead the team and is among the top gymnasts in the state. Senior Madison Piotrowski and sophomores Kaeylyn Landry and Allison Palaski also return as all-arounders while Emilie Kuchta, Allison Palaski, Ellysen Enrique, Lauren Deacy and Natalie Martin are back as sophomore specialists. In addition, the Trostangs have four freshmen in the mix as well.

Geneva finished third in the state a season ago, but the Vikings lost some key contributors from that squad, including Graci Weems who transferred to Wheaton Academy. The good news for the Vikings is that Reese Lackey, Brooke Lussnig, Maeve Devlin and specialist Emma Wiedenhoeft all return while they welcome newcomers like freshman Julia Swierczewski and senior Elizabeth Ebert. Sophomores Ava Mehren and Anne Fellinger are expected to contribute as well.

"This group has a strong work ethic and team connection," Geneva coach Kim Hostman said. "We look to improve throughout the season to make another run at state."

Glenbard East is less than five years removed from its first trip to state in 2019 when it placed seventh and just four years from its top ever finish in 2020 when it took fourth place, but this season the Rams are in rebuild mode. Emma Iwaniszyn, who just finished her volleyball season, returns along with fellow junior Olivia Broyles and junior Dalia Daoud. Freshman Mylee Janisch joins the team.

"This will be a rebuilding year," Rams coach Jessica Bugajsky explained. "But our goal is to learn lots of new skills and add them to our routines as the year progresses."

Glenbard North lost the 2023 beam state champion (Carly Bachara) who also placed 10th in the all-around. The Panthers also bid farewell to Brooklyn McQuillan, who finished 19th in the all-around last season. Since those two standouts graduated, the Panthers will have to fill their big scores this winter. Kate Klemenswicz, Vassalia Andreeva, Dania Daoud and Aubrey Santos are among the all-arounders who are expected to receive significant time in the lineup.

Glenbard West graduated its top three all-arounders who finished 1-2-3 in the Glenbard West regional last season. Juniors Leah Chapski and Grace Flint and sophomore Mackenzie Mason return while the program welcomes 13 new gymnasts including senior Lilly McCarthy and freshmen Maddie Ford and Caylen Berger.

"The expectations at Glenbard West never change," Hilltoppers coach Carlos Fuentes said. "Maximize your potential with the talent that you have. We have a mix of experience and youth in the program. The underclassmen will have to learn quickly and adapt to the rigors of high school while the upperclassmen will need to assume new roles to fill the holes left by graduation."

Hinsdale Central has a few new gymnasts this season, including junior all-arounder Kennedy Hannah, to help compensate for the loss of key senior scorers from a season ago. "This year will be tough," Red Devils coach Kim Estoque said. "But the girls are working hard." Senior Hazel Hamelka and junior Erica Driscoll return as all-arounders.

Hinsdale South unfortunately has succumbed to the injury bug already. It has bitten junior Anya Patel who placed 15th in the state in the all-around last season along with junior sectional qualifier Casey Fundator and all-arounders Ashley Berg and Madison Amolsch. "Katie (Joseph), Mickey (Graffe), Rory (Angelo), Maeve (McCracken) and Emma (Glashin) will have to carry the team while the rest are on the mend," Hornets coach Jarrod Amolsch said.

Glashin is a freshman all-arounder, McCracken is a sophomore all-arounder who qualified for sectionals last season and the other three gymnasts are juniors.

Kaneland will have some individual gymnasts competing again this season to represent the Knights. Newcomer Ella Kerrins joins Alina Dabek, Kaci Randall and Caylee Rehkopf.

Lake Park brought home a fifth-place trophy last season, and with senior all-arounders Julia Bartnik and Cali Keefe back to lead the way, the Lancers should be destined for another strong season that should culminate with another trip to Palatine in February.

Finding the best combination to complete their team score will be key for the Lancers who are already counting on Bartnik and Keefe for big all-around numbers. Keefe took 24th in the all-around last winter while Bartnik was seventh. Bartnik also was co-champion on vault, third on beam and fifth on floor. Bella Ciccia, Alisa Gnutek, Bree Lukes, Maddie Springer, Sami Eichholz, Elena Heath, Lauren Puscas and others will look to contribute.

Naperville Central returns senior Gaby Tapia, junior Alana Williams and sophomore Harley Sambrooks while welcoming another all-arounder in freshman Lia Bennett. "We had a great finish last season with a season high at regionals," Redhawks coach Christina Tardy said. "We have a lot of our kids back this season and they are looking stronger so we are excited to see what we can put together this season with our very young team."

Naperville North finished last season with a 120.7 to take fourth place in the Hinsdale Central regional. How much have the Huskies grown since then is a question that will be answered this season as they don't welcome any new athletes, but juniors Erin Arnold and Samanna Connolly and sophomore Ava Kobbemann return.

"We are trying to build a solid team, working on elevating our skill level and improve with each meet," Huskies coach Chris Stanicek said. "We're looking to improve our mental performance through our approach to both practices and competitions."

St. Charles co-op has the ingredients for a special season this winter with the return of juniors Emily Johnson and Izzi Othon from injury. With them back in the lineup along with junior state qualifier Rachel Nicastro, sophomore Arianna Halick and freshman Jordyn McBride as all-arounders, coach Tom Wirth said, "we feel we can be pushing the 140 mark later in the season."

The team might be small in numbers but all it takes is four scores in each of the four events to succeed. Freshmen specialists Kaelyn Reder and Alanna Gupta also will contribute for a program that topped out at 134.35 last season.

Wheaton co-op knows what to expect from senior all-arounders Haylie Hinckley and Jordan Wach, but where the team is going to get the remaining half of their team score needs to be determined. The program added five new varsity members and 13 to the program as a whole, including senior specialists, Mia LaFratta and Delaney Brown and sophomore all-arounder Marlee Larson.

"We are excited to have a great group of seniors leading our team," Wheaton co-op coach Maureen Kermend said. "Our goal is to capitalize on our talent and work ethic this season."

Willowbrook had a high mark of a 132 last year, but only scored a 120.85 in its final competition, placing fourth in the Wheaton Warrenville South regional. "Looking forward to scoring 130-plus and for a focus on progress and consistency," Blazers coach Andy Isaacson said.

Senior Mia McBride, junior Naomi Campbell and sophomores Leigh Bernardo and Kaia Capulong return, while freshman Lillian Macias is expected to make an immediate impact. Fellow freshmen Macy Morris and Mallory Yeazel also are part of a young squad.

York is getting a nice boost from its newcomers this winter with Angela Stangarone joining the team for her senior season and Melania Veselovsky making the squad as a freshman. Their respective club backgrounds combined with the return of senior Daniella Chavez and juniors Hayley Schiltz and Mia Carone should allow the Dukes to easily surpass last season's high of a 126.375. It didn't take long for them to do it either as the Dukes won the Hornet Invite on Nov. 22 with a 135.3.

"These girls have been working so hard and training during the off season," Dukes coach Ashley Samata said. "I cannot wait to see them showcase their talent and have all of their hard work pay off. I have high hopes for the team this year."

Note: Glenbard South, Prairie Ridge co-op, U-46 co-op and Valley co-op did not provide team information.

John Starks/jstarks@dailyherald.comReese Lackey returns to a Geneva team that finished third in the state last year.
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