After a great finish – with a state title in 2010 – Carmel already is off to a great start this season.
“It gives us a big motivation to come back and do it again,” Carmel sophomore Sarah Cohen-Smith said. “We knew it was coming. We trained really hard over the summer. We’ve been working together well.”
On Saturday, it was only fitting that the Corsairs had a great start and a great finish in winning the Al Galatte Invitational at Rolling Meadows for the second year in a row with 72.20 points. Lake Forest placed second (68.30) and Stevenson was third (66.475).
The meet's format allows each team just two gymnasts per event and every gymnast can only compete in one event.
Carmel sophomore and first-year team member Lauren Feely set the tone by winning floor exercise with the fifth of 36 routines. Carmel closed out the meet with vaulting, where Cohen-Smith had a career-high 9.70 to win the event, followed by junior Jen Zeller with a 9.65.
Carmel junior Kirstin Mirski won balance beam (9.30). Lake Forest sophomore Kat McKeon won the uneven parallel bars (9.15).
“It’s easier to stay focused on that one event but it’s a little strange not to do all four of them. (Going fifth) it’s good to get it kind of out of the way and then your meet’s over,” Feely said. “We work hard so eventually it’s going to pay off. As long as we keep working hard, keep focused, it seems like it’s within our reach (of winning state again).”
The Corsairs return six members from last year’s state lineup – Kristin Mirski, Zeller, Cohen-Smith, senior Dani Clement, junior Lauren Bowles and sophomore Kari Osowski. They graduated all-stater Amber Mirski and Lauren Pytel, but they’ve picked up Feely and junior Anna Brandmeier.
Osowski (8.8) and Brandmeier (8.5) were second and fourth on uneven parallel bars.
Feely actually watched her future teammates at last year’s Galatte Invite, and she was there at the state meet to see the championship success and celebration. She and Zeller train at Ultimate Gymnastics in Gurnee.
“I wanted to help out the team. They won last year and it sounded fun, so I joined,” Feely said. “Going into high school, I didn’t want to do it my first year (at) a new school. I had a feeling I would do it my sophomore year. It’s been really fun. All of the girls have been really nice.”
Helping Carmel score a state-best 149.20 in its season-opening triangular victory Nov. 23 at Vernon Hills, Feely posted 9.5s on vault and bars.
She said Saturday’s floor was her best routine so far. It featured a double back flip on her first pass, a front handspring, front full, punch pike on the second and a round off/flip flop/double-full twist on the third.
“It was OK. There’s room for improvement,” Feely said. “I’m just glad I stayed on my feet because in club you warm up (your apparatus) and then you compete.You’re really cold on there. It’s kind of shocking.”
Cohen-Smith enjoyed a breakthrough as well. She formerly threw tucked Yurchenkos. Saturday marked the first time she attempted a piked Yurchenko in a meet, and she did it for both of her attempts.
“I was excited. My team was jumping up and it was a lot of fun,” Cohen-Smith said. “I was anxious. Jen and I had a pep talk before the event. It was a lot of fun, but we were anxious (going last, saying), 'We want to get this over with.’ ”