Carlson, Lake Forest pushing for even higher scores

Lake Forest sophomore Kylie Carlson is striving for more this season.
At Saturday’s Conant Invitational, Lake Forest coach Robin Straus told her team that the goal was a top-four finish. Carlson had the Scouts thinking higher.
“One of our goals was to finish in the top two today and we did that,” Carlson said. “It was great because we see a lot of teams that we don’t normally see.”
In a strong field, the Scouts (109.95 points) finished second only to defending state champion Carmel (112.575) and just ahead of fellow state powers Schaumburg (108.85) and Glenbard West (107.225). The format allows four competitors per event with only the top three scores going toward the team total.
“Secretly I was thinking (we could finish) top two but I was giving them a little cushion there. We knew the (other) teams there were so great,” Straus said. “Kylie bumps things up. (Top-two) was her goal. She wants to push it harder, which is really a great thing.”
Carlson took third in all-around (37.05) behind Carmel sophomore and first-year high-school gymnast Lauren Feely (38.25) and Schaumburg senior Brooke Shimon (37.40).
Carlson also won vault with career-high 9.85 and was second on floor exercise (9.7) to Feely (9.75) and sixth on balance beam (9.2).
Carlson edged Carmel’s Kristin Mirski (9.8) for the vault title by landing her layout/stretch Yurchenko, a vault she tried occasionally last year besides the primary pike Yurchenko.
“I worked on that over the summer,” Carlson said. “It felt really good, especially from the block and everything. It felt like I had a lot of power.”
Last season, the Scouts qualified for state as a team for the first time since taking third in 1985 and graduated only Ashley Smith from that state lineup. Carlson, seniors Melanie Foster and Grace Kohlmeier and junior Katie Meier return. Foster, who was a team-best eighth on beam (8.75), is a team captain with Kohlmeier and seniors Caroline Kelner and Rachel Sieb from the junior varsity.
Key newcomers are sophomore Kat McKeon and freshman Brittany Moccia. In all-around, Moccia (36.30) tied for fifth and McKeon (36.15) was seventh. Moccia was fourth on vault (9.55) and seventh on beam (9.0) and tied for seventh on floor (9.25), and McKeon was fourth on uneven bars (9.1) and 10th on vault (9.2) and floor (9.15).
“We’re just trying to build upon last year -- place in the top five, top three,” Carlson said. “One of our goals is we want to make it to state again this year. We have a deep team. We have lots of veterans and four senior captains and new additions to varsity.”
At last year’s state meet, Carlson was second on floor exercise (9.6) to Prairie Ridge/District 155 co-op’s Jenny Covers (9.625) and seventh in all-around (37.30).
This season, Carlson has added plenty of new tricks on all of her events, which has actually been hindering her all-around totals at this point.
“The routines are stronger. I just need to stay on the beam I guess,” said Carlson, who still scored 9.2 with a fall. “I fell on my flip flop layout. I either make the punch front and fall on the series or I make the series and fall on the punch front so I’m going to put it together and make them both. On bars, I had some pirouetting problems. I just need to hit my bar routine and I’ll be there.”
“So she keeps counting a 9.2 (on beam) with a fall and on  bars she’s missing her handstand pirouette,” Straus said. “If she hits that, then you’re looking at a 9.4 bars routine that went 8.3 (Saturday). When she does, look out. The other ones are hitting.”
Kohlmeier missed Saturday’s meet with walking pneumonia after competing on only uneven bars in the 147.85 to 146.75 loss at Stevenson Dec. 8, which put a damper on the Scouts’ chances of winning the North Suburban Conference overall title. Still, the score was a school-record for Lake Forest, eclipsing the 145.40 mark set last season.
“Our goal still is to win conference. We haven’t done that in a very long time. This was our best chance to do this. We had a good meet but so did (Stevenson),” Straus said.
“It’s like you go home and you go, ‘Yeah (we scored 146.75), but we lost.’ The (record) that stood on the record board forever was a 144.10 against Fremd and we lost that one too. That was up there for 25 years. I need this group to beat that (146.75) so that I feel better. I need them to do it in a win or at sectionals and get to state with that.”

 Conant's Starzynski getting chance to contribute


Plenty has changed since Conant sophomore Sarah Starzynski last saw action in a gymnastics meet.
“I haven’t competed since 2009 state in club so it’s just different,” Starzynski said. “It seems like I haven’t competed in forever, but it’s been all right. I’m just getting back into it slowly.”
Starzynski missed all of last season with an injured right foot and spent most of it on crutches.
On Saturday, she was a team-best eighth on balance beam (8.955) to help the Cougars take fifth at its annual invitational with 101.88 points.
With freshmen all-arounders Brie Bibel and Meicie Bennett also part of this year’s lineup, the Cougars made quite a leap from finishing last at their 10-team invite in 2009 with 81.85 points.
“We’re back in the game this year,” said Conant coach Lorel Cunningham with a laugh.
“We’re a young, young team. We’re getting used to the high school (routine). They’re club kids so they’re used to practice, practice, practice and have a meet. The rigorous competition schedule is a little hectic for them but they’re getting used to it. They’re learning what they need and we’re working on putting in some harder skills. It seems like every meet we’re getting a little better.”
Bibel had three top-10 finishes, taking seventh on vault (9.4), eighth in all-around (35.225) and ninth on uneven bars (8.725). Starzynski and Bennett had all-around totals of 34.205 and 32.45, respectively. Junior returnees Bridget Waas (vault) and Haley Schuhl (bars) and Sidney Kolodziej (beam) and Aly Peterson (floor) each competed on one event.
Starzynski, who also was 11th on uneven bars (8.65), likes the event but that’s where she hurt her foot.
On the third day of practice last year, Starzynski hurt herself coming off bars, half of her foot landing on the mat, the other half on the wood gym floor. She strained a ligament on the bottom of her foot and suffered a contusion on her heel.
“It hurts once in a while but I just go home and ice it pretty much,” said Starzynski, a former Level 7/8 gymnast.
“Before in club I was really into sticking everything and being the best, but now I’m just trying to do my best because I know that my injury has set me back a lot. I have a lot of skills that I still want to get on every event. My main thing is to get my (Yurchenko) vault, but I don’t have it yet. I don’t have the round off front handspring part.”

 Lincoln-Way co-op pushes to achieve next level

Although Lincoln-Way co-op was back at full strength for Saturday’s Conant Invitational, the team found out it still has more to do to reach the state’s elite.
Lincoln-Way (101.60 points) finished sixth in the format where just three of four scores counted.
“They’re starting to come around, figure out what the team needs to do and that’s a good thing,” coach Skip Adamson said. “We just found out where we stand with everybody else, which is a little more behind than some of those pretty good teams than we thought. We have to dig deep for that fourth score right now.”
Lincoln-Way graduated standout Megan Weller from a lineup that had the 10th best sectional score, but all six underclassmen from last year’s postseason lineup are back.
Juniors Kaitlyn Neiheisel (35.00) and Claire Hillier (34.40) were ninth and 12thin all-around. Hillier was 13th on uneven bars (8.55) and Neiheisel was ninth on floor (9.2), 10th on beam (8.9) and 15th on vault (8.95)
Seniors Lorna Krol and Sarah Saffran, junior Emma Morris and sophomore Samantha Duggan also saw action.
“Claire is coming along and Kaitlyn is coming along,” Adamson said. “They’re doing OK, but we’ve got to up their difficulty or find out how to move them up into that next bracket. That’s the hard part because now you find out what bracket you’re in.”

 Glenbard West slowly puts together full lineup


The Hilltoppers' two returning 2010 state event finalists, senior Becky Mladucky and junior Missy Guzman, continued to see limited action Saturday.
Mladucky, who tied for second on uneven bars and was 10th on floor at state last year, only has been competing on uneven bars and beam, where she was fifth at state as a sophomore. On Saturday, Mladucky was second (9.25) on uneven bars to Carmel sophomore Lauren Feely (9.6) and ninth on beam (8.925).
Mladucky was a specialist throughout last season before being an all-arounder for the Hilltoppers' team at the state meet. She is hoped to return to floor training this week, while vault should be added late in the season.
"Becky had a stress fracture this summer that is now healed, but we are taking it slow for now," Glenbard West coach Carlos Fuentes said. "There is a lot of season left.  No need to peak too early."
Guzman, ninth on floor at state in 2010, only competed that event Saturday and tied for 12th (8.95). She was expected to return as an all-arounder in Wednesday's meet.
During her first event at Lyons Township Dec. 8, Guzman grazed her toes and head during her uneven bars routine and sat out two events. She returned to action on floor and scored a team-high 9.3 for second place to LT's Carolyn Cozza (9.55).
Guzman qualified for state as an all-arounder last season, but Fuentes said she sprained her ankle the Monday before state and it swelled to become “as big as her thigh.”
“She still competed on Friday (with the team) and made the state finals,” Fuentes said. “She was joking (at LT), ‘This time it’s only my toes.’ She’s as tough as it gets when it comes to that.”
Other top-10 finishes at Conant came from senior Megan Brennan (5th on beam, 9.225), junior Nicole Pagor (tied for 7th on floor, 9.25), the team’s lone all-arounder, and senior Shannon Dietz (7th on uneven bars, 8.825).