AROUND THE CHALKBOX: Hot topics in gymnastics
 
Continued from page 1

  Whether she resigned or the district gave up the ghost, I couldn't say at this point. All I know is that, as with Todd. it's extremely commendable that Redmond battled the obstacles she did to keep the fire burning as long as she did.

  I never spoke with Redmond about her program -- as I usually was only fortunate to see her bright, shining face when she was volunteering at the state meet each year and occasionally at a Sandburg Regional or some such -- but did have an e-mail conversation with Rich Township co-op boys coach Nick Katrichis before his program was killed by the district.

  From what Katrichis told me, and my eyes showed me, it wasn't hard to extrapolate that Rich Township's girls team wouldn't be around much longer.

  My lasting image of Rich Township gymnastics in the later years was that Redmond's teams typically featured three to five girls, but all of them were meticulously prepared (a fact, no doubt, lost on the district's administration). As with Elgin/Larkin, the majority of them had spent far less than a decade in the gym honing their skills -- but there usually was one girl that was state-caliber in a couple of events (or a little better, such as three-time state vaulting champ Corynne Cooper in the mid-1990s). Regardless of their "level", it was easy to see Redmond's handiwork. There were still routines that caught your eye.

  Then, as now, I was in Texas when her best was on display.

  Many longtime gymnastics enthusiasts remember powerhouse Rich Central teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s, led by Redmond's daughters Jennifer and Jill and coached by Dan Malloy. They also featured state medalists Katie Bretz and Wendy Schroeder. For the uninitiated, Rich Central won the 1990 state title and was a runner-up in 1987 and 1989.

  My introduction to Redmond came not long before that, when I covered the club state meet at her facility in the south suburbs. She looked vaguely familiar to me on that first meeting, and I've often wondered if she competed with or against my sister's Eiche Turners teams in the late 1960s.

  Neither of them remembers the other, so I'm left to wonder. But also to miss Redmond from afar, as I will Todd.

  The co-ops at Elgin/Larkin and Rich Township may have gravitated toward the bottom of the SGS rankings in most statistical categories -- except the improvement rankings -- but IHSA gymnastics as a whole is poorer for their absence in this observer's estimation.

  Elgin/Larkin was situated in an area that was hoped to be a growth area for the sport. This gymnastics enthusiast believes that the more Jacobs', Kanelands, Woodstocks and Hampshires that can be added to the list of IHSA member schools that offer girls gymnastics in the coming years, the less likely that minimum participation rules will threaten the sport.

  One wonders whether the demise of Elgin/Larkin will make a convenient excuse for the burgeoning population in that area to go without proper representation in high school gymnastics, while future athletic directors point wrongly to Elgin/Larkin as an example of why they won't respond to the growth of gymnastics west of Randall Road.

  As for Rich Township, it's one more nail in the coffin of south suburban gymnastics. It's one more step in the sport's long descent south of the Eisenhower Expressway and that makes the loss of Redmond's program even more tragic.

  It's not as easy to forsee other schools picking up where Rich Township left off in an area where new homes and new gymnastics clubs, for the most part, aren't being built.

  Fortunately, one exception in the southwest side of Chicagoland is Plainfield North. For now, Plainfield North gymnasts are competing as individuals, but Sandy Spirk-Roeder is optimistic that a full-blown program will emerge soon.

  There's also hope out west, where EnerGym Sports Academy owner and Northern Illinois University assistant coach (former? current? I'm not sure) Andy Morreale has put together a DeKalb/Sycamore co-op team.

  Both teams seemingly have the essential ingredients for success. Their potential for longevity is something that can't be accurately assessed at this point.

  From those two seeds, hopefully, IHSA girls gymnastics will grow stronger. However, the loss of the longstanding and, to some extent, long-suffering Elgin/Larkin and Rich Township co-ops still seems preventable and unnecessary.

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STATE GYMNASTICS STATS: Girls

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AROUND THE CHALKBOX:
Hot topics in gymnastics
 

Break up the Stevenson Sectional

By Mike Considine
SGS co-publisher

This isn't a column to criticize the IHSA for assigning five of the top 10 teams in the state -- and seven who had a least an outside chance of qualifying for the state meet -- to the same sectional.

It's really not.

The reason is because the IHSA (almost) corrected half of the major dilemma it's faced for the last decade or so. Of course, it was a dilemma of the organization's own making. But that's not the issue at hand. Examining what can be done to fix the rest of the dilemma is what this is all about.

First, the half that the IHSA sort of rectified with a couple of moves this year (as long as it's willing to make one or two of them in reverse in the next couple of years).

For years, I've said that what the IHSA needed to do to make things more fair and equitable in terms of sending worthy teams to state was to combine the northern two sectionals (this year, they're at Stevenson and Niles North) and the southern two (Lake Park and Hinsdale Central) and distribute the traditional best teams evenly between the tow. Then re-evaluate the relative strengths of teams every two to four years and reassign teams as necessary to maintain relative competitive balance.

We at SGS have been making the data available to do exactly that for eight years now. The last four years are posted on the website in the form of state rankings by regional and sectional scores. OK, this year's aren't there yet, but the regional rankings should be in the next day or so.

I don't have time to do a complete analysis until right now, since making the regional and sectional results available to you is a higher priority to my colleague Bill Stone and myself. But there's a graphic on the SGS homepage in a color somewhat close to burgundy that gives you an idea of the imbalance of power between this year's sectionals. Well get to that in a second or two.

Let's give the IHSA and the gymnastics advisory board a pat on the back first.

In our view, the sectional complex shouldn't merely be designed to get the best teams to state. It's also important for the entire 16-team field to be as balanced as possible, so the 135- to 138-point teams out there have an equal chance of qualifying for sectionals and the individuals in each sectional have a roughly equal chance of qualifying to sectionals and state regardless at any of the other three sectional complexes. Sure, it's a Utopian concept, but it's just the ideal we'd like to see the IHSA strive for, not the expected result.

Let's consider the sectionals held Tuesday at Lake Park and Thursday at Hinsdale Central. Traditionally, the one at Lake Park has been a little deeper and the one at Hinsdale Central has been a little stronger at the top. The offseason moves between those sectionals were to move the Naperville-Aurora-Oswego area schools from the Lake Park Sectional to the one at Hinsdale Central and some of the middle-of-the pack teams (at least one of which usually qualified for sectionals each year) from Hinsdale Central to Lake Park.

The, let's call them Naperville region, teams swung the balance of power a bit too heavily to Hinsdale Central. But, hey, that's part of the cost of doing business. As long as it balances out over time, which it can with some minor tweaking, then I don't believe most people would have a problem.

Up north, we've got a problem. Or maybe it's a travesty.

Not only is the Stevenson Sectional significantly stronger in every way I could measure than its counterpart at Niles North, when it begins tonight it's going to set in motion a chain of events that I believe will impact all of the other sectionals.

Now it's time to get numerical.

We'll start with the simplest, easiest to digest math to illustrate our point. In the Stevenson Sectional, the highest-scoring team in the state that didn't qualify for a sectional put up a 140.725. You could point out that Libertyville didn't perform up to its usual standards. However, if the Wildcats were assigned to a sectional about 15 miles (or less) to the south, they'd still have a theoretical chance to qualify for state as the third seed at Niles North. It's worth noting that Libertyville has ranked in the top 10 in every statistical category we measure (except the improvement rankings) every week this season.

I don't necessarily mean to single out Libertyville, no matter how much sympathy I feel for the team right now, but to zero in on the point that it shouldn't take a 143.55 to qualify for state in one sectional when it takes a 129.00 to qualify in an adjacent sectional. It's an indication that the system we're currently operating under is intrinsically unfair (by the way, the qualifying cut was 132.925 at Lake Park and currently is 136.40 at Hinsdale Central. Which is a reversal of roles. Again, MINOR tweaking is needed).

It also indicates to me, because of the proximity factor, it should be easy to fix when there's been a big disparity between the strength of the two sectionals. And there has. It's just wider than it ever should be this year.

As for the graphic on the SGS homepage, what it shows is not only that it's rough at the top in the Stevenson Sectional, but it's also the roughest throughout. Averaging the rankings for the 16 teams assigned to Stevenson as of Sectional Seeding Day, produced a norm of 22.75. That means that the average team at Stevenson ranked about 23rd among the 64 IHSA-sanctioned teams this year (keep in mind that 24 teams qualify for sectionals each year). The average ranking for the Hinsdale Central and Lake Park sectionals was in the 32 range. The average ranking for the Niles North Sectional was 39.313, or roughly 16.5 points lower.

To further illustrate the point, nine of the state's top 24 teams by sectional seeding formula on Jan. 12 were assigned to Stevenson. So what happened to Libertyville and Barrington (despite scoring 139.45 in the Lake Forest Regional) inevitably was going to happen to a couple of teams in that sectional. Hinsdale Central and Lake Park each have six teams rated in the top 24. Niles North has three.

In fairness, Niles North sectional qualifiers Prospect and New Trier have raised their performance level since then -- but so have Stevenson qualifiers Prairie Ridge/District 155 co-op and Palatine. None of that has lessened the disparity.

Before we get to the IHSA concept of regional representation, let's take a guess at how things will play out this week to show why it's not good to have a disproportionately strong as the first one that's going to be contested during Sectional Week.

We all know that the scores tend to be tight early in the week so that the judges have somewhere to go with their scores to reward outstanding performances later in the week -- and that's done to ensure that the best teams and gymnasts get to state. We're not giving away secrets here.

The fallout will be that there will be more pressure on four of the state's five top-ranked teams and their counterparts tonight than their would be under a more equitable system. The margin for error will be slim. But, unless I miss my guess, that's going to be true at Lake Park Tuesday and Hinsdale Central Wednesday, too.

There's such an outstanding collection of individual (and collective) talent at Stevenson, that the judges are going to be forced to loosen the lid on those scores a little bit. So I expect that the only realistic response they can make is to clamp down the next two nights.

If or when this happens, don't blame the judges. Their hands will be tied. With a state-caliber sectional at the start of Sectional Week, they've got an ominous task ahead of them.

It says here that the simple solution to this is to study the two northern sectionals during the off season, see which teams are traditionally most powerful and even out the strength of the sectionals. For kid's sake.

That isn't the solution I'd recommend, but it's the most likely to be palatable to the IHSA. After all, they've already unwittingly attempted to do it by shifting the Naperville area schools in the southern sectionals.

Why the long word in the previous paragraph?

Well, when I did a column about a similarly imbalanced situation in cross country five years ago, the words I heard from the IHSA official in charge of the sport (and the organization's party line) indicated that it could never happen, no matter how much sense it might make. The IHSA official told me, and the coaches, that the organization doesn't have an interest in getting the eight best teams to its state meets. Priority No. 1 for the IHSA is, and has always been, (say it along with me coaches) REGIONAL REPRESENTATION.

My response is that the precedent already has been set to throw away that concept, which should makes a lot of sense downstate where there can be 100 miles or more between Class 3A or 4A schools. In gymnastics at the present time, literally all of the teams are from the extended (to include newcomer DeKalb) Chicago area. Therefore, it says here that REGIONAL REPRESENTATION should be a minor consideration.

In my eyes, it already is. As proof I offer the example of South Elgin/Bartlett/Streamwood co-op, which the IHSA shipped past closer sectionals this year at Lake Park (the one that made sense) and Hinsdale Central (unjustifiable in any way except proximity) to Niles North. That's about a 2 1/2-hour bus ride. To add insult to injury, the fourth-year program was assigned to the New Trier Regional, literally the entire width of the Chicago area away (and then about 10 miles north).

When I did the cross country column, literally every coach I asked said he was willing to be shipped as far away as Rockford if it helped bring about a better system. My guess is that gymnastics coaches would feel the same way.

If that doesn't work for the sport, then why not adopt borrow from boys gymnastics? In boys gymnastics, the top teams are seeded according to strength before the sectional bids are issued. Then the remaining teams are assigned geographically (or at least as the IHSA perceives geography). It's not a perfect system, but several years in, I've not heard many complaints that it's unfair.

Regardless of which system is adopted, I think it's time for the gymnastics community to demand change that it can believe in.

The good news is that the problems can be fixed and a better system can be in place in time for next year's state meet (as has hopefully been done with merging the state prelims into one session). Unfortunately, that's not much consolation for Libertyville senior Leah Herchenbach and her teammates. Or any of the state-worthy teams at Stevenson who's seasons will end tonight. The math tells us there's likely to be at least one, if not two, if they perform anywhere near as well as they did at their regional.

Meanwhile, I guess we can all sit back and watch to see whether one of the sectional teams that doesn't quite get an at-large berth outscores one of the sectional champions.

COACHES' CORNER
 
A question-and-answer session with the state's boys and girls gymnastics coaches

By Mike Considine
SGS co-publisher

GETTING TO KNOW: Robin Straus, Lake Forest girls head coach

SGS: How long have you been at Lake Forest? How did you land the job and what attracted you to Lake Forest?

Straus: I have been at Lake Forest since 1979 ( 32 years). I am from Highland Park and live in Deerfield. I always wanted to teach on the north shore. My first teaching Job was at Joliet West and my first coaching job was with Bolingbrook High School. Carol Myers from Deerfield coached at Lake Forest and then went to Deerfield. I actually took her spot when they opened a PE job. Lake Forest has and always will be a special place to teach and coach. It truly is a wonderful school.

SGS: What have been the biggest changes you've seen in gymnastics during your time at LF?

Straus: Biggest changes include; bars is so much harder to make up beginning routines because the bars are so far apart. Varsity routines have so much more difficulty. We started with wrestling mats so spring floors are pretty special.  We are now on our third floor. Front tumbling is definitely harder. Leotards are much more expensive. The horse and the vaults are completely different.  Head coaches are turning over. The talent level of every team has gotten so much stronger.  

SGS: What was your own gymnastics background and who were your coaching role models?

Straus: My gymnastics background includes competing on the first teams for Highland Park High School. Girls sports were just beginning with the passing of Title IX. Betty Axelson was coaching then for Maine East.  At Highland Park  we were undefeated my junior and senior years. I competed in the Niles West Invite then and it still lives on today.

Then I went on to compete at Kent State University and then University of Iowa where I was the team captain my junior year. I also coached a high school team which was second in the state my senior year. They granted me an early teaching certificate so I could coach. It was a great opportunity for me but I could not compete for Iowa in my senior year. My early role models in coaching were Bonnie Voss (Highland Park coach), Rudy Bachna my coach at Kent State (so full of enthusiasm), Betty Axelson and Sandy Oldham from Palatine.

SGS: Do you coach any other sports besides gymnastics? If so, do you find that there is carryover value, i.e. things about coaching gymnastics that you apply to other sports you coach?

Straus: I was the head coach for volleyball and gymnastics from 1978-1990.  Then the freshman coach for a few years for volleyball. Now I just keep score for both the boys and girls teams. I apply conditioning to both sports and having teams that are close to one another and love being there each day. They will always practice like they hope to compete.

SGS: What are the most valuable things you've learned during your coaching career? What do you differently now than when you were first starting out?

Straus: When I first started out I was only 20.  I was a bit too close in age (to the gymnasts). I don’t do things much differently, but I am much wiser. I have learned that some parents can be a bit more difficult to deal with these days. The kids are more stressed and involved in many many things making scheduling a challenge.

SGS: Obviously, there's been a great infusion of talent in Lake Forest gymnastics the last couple of years. Did you know those girls were coming or did they take you by surprise?

Straus:  I knew that the girls on my varsity team were coming. Each season I know which kids in the clubs are from Lake Forest. We try to get them to come watch a couple of meets. Sometimes we invite them to flash, time and run.

SGS: What made last year's state-qualifying team successful in your eyes?

Straus: Last season was truly special, as were the teams from 1984-1988. It all came together with the right mix of kids. We had strong leaders and very strong rookies. We all had been pointing to state for a while. We were there, but disappointed that we did not finish higher. That will motivate us for this season.  We have a completely different team now. One graduated and 2 left us to concentrate on track. We have picked up two wonderful, sweet gymnasts for a total of seven varsity kids. I love that I have two girls on this team whose mothers were on my teams in the '80s.

SGS: What are the hopes for Lake Forest in the future? As a retiring coach, where would you like to see the program go?

Straus: The plans for Lake Forest in the future are to continue with a strong gymnastics program. We would like to get our JV numbers up a bit. I am confident that I am leaving the program in good hands.  My assistant coaches are wonderful and, hopefully, they will get the opportunity to carry on with a very special group of gymnasts.

CLICK ON PHOTO BELOW TO SEE IT FULL-SIZED

teamprogrampicture.jpg
The final Elgin/Larkin co-op team, 2009-10

COACHES' CORNER
 
Continued from page 1

GETTING TO KNOW: Glen Reimers, Naperville Central boys and girls head coach

SGS: What was your background as a gymnast and how did your experiences as both a gymnast and as an assistant shape the type of coach you became when you took over at Naperville Central?

Reimers: You can go back to the answer in question No. 1 and add that I didn’t start gymnastics until my junior year in high school. I stunk at basketball and didn’t want to get a job so I went with the advice of two of my friends and joined gymnastics. Little did I know that when I showed up to the meeting did I find out they were kidding. One of those friends is Jeff Martin, a standout gymnast that competed at Oklahoma with Bart Conner. Needless to say, I took that as a challenge which kept me going through the sometimes severe pain I encountered performing on the rings, specifically the ripped hands. There weren’t any dowel grips back then, unless you made your own with a wooden dowel and fishing line.

I was the only one in my family ever to try gymnastics. My twin brother tried for… I think 2 weeks and then quit. My parents had no idea what the sport entailed, but supported me through my whole life …whatever I decided to do with it.

I started at Naperville Central January 6,, 1986. I volunteered under the guidance of Dottie Rizutto and John Lies. Fall of ’86 I became the head coach when Dottie left teaching and coaching to be a full-time mom. I was an assistant boys coach from spring of ’86 until the spring of ’94 when Tom Temple retired. In ’95 I became the head coach of the boys team.

The shape I took was a combination of coaches I worked with through my entire career, and all are great coaches and I am so very grateful to have had the opportunity to be able to work with them, however, the one I will have to give credit to as directing me to where I am today is Barb Hartwig, my first coaching mentor and friend. She is a positive encouraging coach not only to the gymnast but her coaches as well. An attitude of “you never know what you can do unless you try.” She was a great teacher of positive, constructive reinforcement. She was organized and a straight-forward-don’t beat around the bush type of coach that put her soul into all she did for her coaches and gymnasts. She allowed me to grow as a coach and allowed me to fail and learn from it. She taught me to laugh at myself at times and teach others that you can learn, be successful and have a great time doing it. She knew when to be serious and when it was time to “clown” around. I just can’t say enough about her. She is the one that introduced me to Bev Mackes and the Fighting Illini Gymnastics program and encouraged me to follow my dream. She continually gave of herself and steered me in a life-changing positive direction. I will forever love her for allowing me the opportunity to be part of a program.

SGS: I've always seen you as an outstanding coach particularly in floor exercise and vaulting. Were these your best events as a gymnast or events that you got particularly good training in?

Reimers: The only event I ever competed on was the still rings. I dabbled on the p-bars and trampoline, but nothing ever seriously. We didn’t have vaulting for boys that I remember. I was always fascinated by tumbling and tramp, and I learned how to spot a tremendous amount of “tricks” on both. The difference is strength for the other events. That puts a damper on “tricks” for rings and p-bars and pommel horse. The same is true for uneven bars. If you can’t hold yourself up, it’s hard to learn things. The other thing is handstands. Once you master the handstand, other “tricks” start to fall into place.

SGS: Your communication skills with regard to your athletes are among the best I've encountered in the coaches I'm familiar with, and that's not necessarily limited to the gymnastics coaches I've known.  How much of that do you see as being a reflection of your personality and how much is due to the techniques of coaching you've learned?

Reimers: I would probably have to say that it started with my parents, especially my father. He worked as a medical technologist for Condell Memorial Hospital in Libertyville. He knew a lot of people and I was able to shadow him a couple of times at an early age. Just seeing how he interacted with people and how he calmed people down was a gift. He was very personable. I tried, as most sons do, to model him. He ended up knowing a lot of people and tried to know a little something about all he met. It made people feel good about them and that someone actually cared. That’s what I try to do show them I do care.

SGS: How important is communication to building a successful team?

Reimers: Communication is a make-or-break building block of a team. There isn’t any success without it. I find myself, at times, taking for granted that the athletes know what I’m talking about. I am quickly reminded, sometimes in a positive way and sometimes in a not so positive way, that I lacked good communication. In the latter case it’s OK to let them know that you are human and you make mistakes. Be honest and have enough integrity to 'fess up when you’ve done something wrong. They will respect you for that. I try to make sure through immediate feedback that they understand what’s going on and why.

SGS: You've had such outstanding success with your girls teams. With Naperville Central's boys teams, with the exception of an occasional Keith Lage, you haven't often had the same caliber of individual on the boys side. In your mind, have you had to define different goals for the two programs and/or how do you handle the discrepancy? Is it ever frustrating? 

Reimers: You are coming into it with two completely different mindsets. Most of the girls coming into the program have had gymnastics before. Most of my guys have not. They are starting “new” their freshman year. Some even wait until their sophomore year to decide. Some of the guys got cut from baseball and some from volleyball. It’s also a worthy note that quite a few are multi-sport athletes coming from diving and wrestling and some from football. I know that we probably won’t be a state contender anytime soon and that’s all right. It’s still a great goal to shoot for. As you already know, we make little goals and develop them into larger ones. It’s the same with the girls. The girls just reach them faster. It is frustrating at times, but then I look back at how much they have improved and realize that they are developing not only into gymnast but fine young men as well. They have gained a positive experience that they wouldn’t have in any other sport and that’s something they will take with them for the rest of their lives.

SGS: How did you meet your wife, Chris? What are the kids up to nowadays?

Reimers: Chris and I went to Mundelein High School and that’s how we met. She and I were at U of I at the same time and I actually coached her for awhile. I wasn’t a paid assistant at the time just a volunteer. Chris has become my biggest fan and keeps me going when I sometimes want to give up. We all go through it now and then, and she seems to say the right words at the right time to inspire me.

Our kids are all doing well. Chris and I became grandparents on April 29 this past year. His name is Thomas Jones or T.J. for short. Ashley has re-enlisted in the Navy along with her husband. They are both contemplating making a career of it. Alyssa is a senior at West Aurora where she has just finished swimming and is starting her offseason training for softball. She would like to go to San Diego State and get into the NROTC program and become a pilot. Kyle is a sophomore at West Aurora and is learning how to drive. He starts swimming next week. Luke is in 5th grade and just had his tonsils and adenoids removed. He just started playing the coronet.

Resurgent Red Devils win own sectional

By Bill Stone
SGS co-publisher

Hinsdale Central boys set school floor exercise record on way to state, 2006

Click here for the link: 

http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1N1-112176406FFD9948.html

 

Bell family's reign coming to an end in Oswego

By Mike Considine
SGS co-publisher

When Kasey Bell wrapped up her career in 2003, it was the end of the most successful period in Oswego gymnastics history:

O'Donnell brothers unite to vanquish Hilltoppers

By Bill Stone
SGS co-publisher

The O'Donnell brothers help Hinsdale Central defeat Glenbard West in a dual meet.

Click here for the link: 

http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1N1-12F1CD9B523FAD38.html?key=01-421604517E19161F12797616746B057C0A7C010C7F342050314949230A42333D5F7118731A7B1D6B741700646D157926


 

Lewis leads Trojans to sectional championship

By Mike Considine
SGS co-publisher

Krista Lewis carries Downers Grove North girls to sectional title, 2002
 
Here's the link:
 

August's UIC career enters its winter

By Mike Considine
SGS co-publisher

Feature story on current South Elgin/Bartlett/Streamwood coach Amy August, then a senior at UIC, as her competitive career winds down in 2002 -- in which we learn of her secret desire to write for The Simpsons

Osmosis responsible for desired score, WWS' first DVC title

By Mike Considine
SGS co-publisher

An unconventional coaching technique from Penny Perkins helps Wheaton Warrenville South break the 145-point barrier and win its first DVC championship, 1998
 
Here's the link:
 

Three athletes vying to become St. Charles gym club's first Level 10s

By Mike Considine
SGS co-publisher

Future Geneva state medalist Ashley Felicelli and two teammates make push to be St. Charles Gymnastics Club's first Level 10 gymnasts, 2002

WE NEED YOUR PHOTOS, AND LOTS OF THEM!!!
 
Put your cell phone or digital camera to good use. Please send us your gymnastics photos. We're looking for competition photos, awards stand photos, mugshots, practice photos, "having fun between events" photos, anything that's gymnastics-related and is appropriate for a family newspaper (we have the same standards).
 
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Where are they now?

Allison Buckley
University of Illinois senior

ATHLETIC ACHIEVEMENTS

As a junior: Became Illinois' first two-time all-American by 16th in vaulting (9.5063). Buckley was third after preliminaries with a 9.90. She was Illinois' first event finalist and first-team all-American. The first-team all-Big 10 gymnast set a school record with a 39.525 all-around score against Penn State, breaking the previous record by .5. Buckley owns five of the school's eight best all-around scores entering her senior season and scored 39.0 or better in 14 meets last year. Had 14 first-place finishes, seven in vaulting, four in all-around and two each on bars and floor.  
As a sophomore: Placed 19th in all-around (39.30) and 21st on balance beam (9.85) at NCAA championships. Won the West Regional on balance beam, tying the U of I school record with a 9.925 and becoming the third Illini gymnast to win a regional event title. Also placed second in vaulting (9.90, equalling career-best) and fourth in all-around (39.425, season-high). Fourth at Big 10 Championships in floor exercise, equalling career-best with 9.925. Hit 44 of 48 routines, including all 12 on floor. 
As a freshman: Became Illinois' first all-American since Nancy Thies in 1976. Received awards for South Central Region Gymnast of the Year, Big 10 Freshman of the Year and all-Big 10. Finished 14h on balance beam (9.825) at NCAA Championships.  Placed second on beam, fourth in vaulting, fourth in all-around and seventh on floor at Big 10 Championships. Earned 19 first-place finishes, third in team history. Named team's Most Outstanding Gymnast.

ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTS

As a sophomore and junior: Academic all-Big 10 and Scholastic all-America each year.

BACKGROUND

Hometown: Schaumburg
High school: Conant

At Conant: Was the first IHSA gymnast to win all-four individual events plus all-around while leading Cougars to 2006 team championship. Also, won state bars title in 2005 and state beam title in 2007. Collected 14 individual state medals in all.

After Conant: Led Team Illinois to first place at 2007 NHSGA National High School Championships, winning all-around, vaulting, beam and floor, while finishing second on bars.

Club: Gymkhana Gymnastics, Hanover Park


At Gymkhana: Won Level 10 Region V balance beam championship and qualified for Junior Olympic Nationals in 2006 -- where she finished seventh on beam, 10th in vaulting and 29th in all-around. Finished second on floor, fourth on beam and fourth in all-around at USAG Illinois state meet in 2007.


Noteworthy: Older sister, Jamie, competed at Illinois-Chicago

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