If it seems as though junior Theresa Wojton has been associated with Stevenson gymnastics for several years, that’s because she has.
“I don’t remember not being a part of Stevenson gymnastics,” Wojton said.
The bond began as a child watching a family friend, followed by older sister Stephanie, now a sophomore competing at Winona (Minn.) State University. Competing together, they helped the Patriots win the 2009 state championship.
“I remember when I was little, I would always come to the meets,” Theresa Wojton said.
“Sometimes I couldn’t come to the meet because I had (club) practice, which would upset me because I just loved watching. I thought it was so much fun. The team support and everything about the team is what I love most. Watching my sister be on the team and then having me be on the team, I just have always known I need to be part of a team to do well.”
Wojton wants to be with this year’s team all the way to the state meet. On Saturday, her four top-10 finishes helped the Patriots take second at Hinsdale Central’s Red Devil Invitational with 142.625 points. The host Red Devils won with a season-high 145.025.
Stevenson junior and defending state balance beam champion Ali Castriano won all-around (36.325) and the uneven parallel bars (9.35). Wojton (35.425) and senior Carlie Dobkin (34.90) were fourth and sixth in all-around.
“We’re still in the progressive mode and trying to build up our team and we’re having a lot of fun doing it. We’re just working as hard as we can and just trying to learn new skills on our first score,” Wojton said.
“I’m just trying to have fun and support the team. They’re like my best friends. It’s so much fun because I just love coming out here and having support from them and helping them achieve goals that they want. I just think it’s so much fun being out here with friends that you can trust and have fun with at any time.”
Dobkin was second on vault (9.4) to Hinsdale Central’s Kristen Grilli (9.5), Castriano also was fourth on floor exercise (9.35) and fifth on vault (9.225), senior Caitlin Pagano was fourth on balance beam (8.725), Wojton was fifth on floor (9.25) and sophomore Becca Foltman-Frank was fifth on uneven parallel bars (8.85).
Senior Amanda Holleb, sophomore Riley Trebilco, Dani Webb and Lauren Whalen also saw action.
It’s a group intent on returning to the state meet for the fourth time in the past five years after just missing last season with the 11th best sectional score (142.90) that missed the 144.475 cut. On Dec. 8, the Patriots scored a season high in beating returning eighth-place state finisher Lake Forest 147.85 to 146.75 in a key North Suburban Conference dual in Lincolnshire.
“So far it’s turning out to be a really fun year,” Stevenson coach Judy Harwood said. “It’s a hard-working group, they get along well. They feel like they have something to prove because they didn’t make (state).
“I’m real pleased with how hard they’re working. For them to not make it to state last year was bad. but they used it to motivate themselves. They worked really hard over the summertime and they look much better than they did last year. If we get it together, I feel like we could be better than last year. I think we could one of the top teams in state. We just kind of have to see after Christmas break how things are.”
The Patriots took a big blow just before last postseason when Pagano was sidelined after injuring her elbow just before the NSC Meet. She underwent two surgeries, the latter after it didn’t heal properly.
So far, Pagano only has been competing on beam because her routine doesn’t stress the elbow. She just received medical clearance to begin putting weight on the elbow.
“If she gets all the way back, it would be a real triumph. She’s having fun and she’s a senior so she needs to have whatever season she can have,” Harwood said.
“If Caitlin makes it back, we’re pretty solid but right now we’re just merging on being good team. I think we will become a pretty stonrg team but right now we’re just kind of laid back and having fun.”
Wojton and Foltman-Frank (9.2) tied for sixth on vault, Dobkin was sixth on beam (8.6) and eighth on the uneven parallel bars (8.75), and Wojton (8.475) and Castriano (8.4) was seventh and tied for 10th on beam.
Besides her scores and experience dating back to the American Academy of Gymnastics in Wheeling, Wojton hopes to help the team return to state by providing motivation at practice and during competition. She acknowledges that cheering from her teammates helps her to perform better.
“I need support so I support a lot of other people. I do exactly the same thing I want them to do. I’m always there for them,” Wojton said.
“OK, we really want to get there (to state). If we don’t, it’s OK. It happens, like last year. We just want to go because it’s so much fun. You see all of our friends there. We work out with each other. A lot of the girls from different schools go to the same club we do and so it’s much fun to see everyone and see how they’ve progressed throughout the year.”