Things fall into place for Fremd, Wochinski in opener
By Bill Stone
At Fremd 143.95, South Elgin/Bartlett/Streamwood co-op 130.90, Rolling Meadows 128.10
Tuesday, Nov. 30
Fremd senior Maegan Wochinski opened her fourth varsity season Tuesday with a new outlook and a new trick for the uneven parallel bars.
Wochinski didn't just execute her Jaeger, but she earned a first-place 9.2 that helped the Vikings score 143.95 points and defeat visiting South Elgin/Bartlett/Streamwood co-op (130.90) and Rolling Meadows (128.10) in Palatine. Elgin senior Ashley Horne also competed as an individual and had five top-five finishes.
"I'm just happy I didn't fall on that (Jaeger)," said Wochinski, who also won all-around (36.25) and vault (9.4) with a pike Yurchenko.
"That's my first time competing (the Jaeger). I've been working them for two years. I wasn't sure if I was ready and since this was just a dual meet, I thought I would throw it. And I caught it, so I'm doing it at the invite on Saturday now (at Downers Grove North)."
Fremd's debut shows its not only in contention for a remarkable 19th consecutive trip as a team to the state meet but that it might be able to improve upon last year's third-place state trophy.
Senior Kelly Onesto won balance beam (9.5) with sophomore Stephanie Gallo and freshman Christine Jensen tying for second (9.1) and Wochinski fifth (9.0).
Gallo was second as Fremd's other all-arounder (36.10). Gallo (9.1), Jensen (8.9) and sophomore Emily Pinderski (8.8) went 2-3-4 on uneven bars, Jensen (9.3) tied for second and Gallo (9.2) tied for fifth on vault, and junior Elizabeth Uhrich (8.8), Gallo (8.7) and Wochinski (8.65) went 3-4-5 on floor.
About the only disappointment was junior Stephanie Uhrich turned her ankle during vault warmups and was scratched from the lineup.
"One of the benchmarks is going over 140 for the first meet, and we almost went 144, which is really impressive. We just have to hope Steph is OK," Fremd coach Jim Guest said.
"We want to get a meet under our belts, see where we're at and then build off of that, try to get better. That's really how I approach any season, no matter what level team I have. As we go through, we kind of see what we're capable of and then yadda, yadda, yadda (with specific goals). It's a journey. We're not going to get to that end result in November, but the work we put forth in November will help us to a positive finish."
Wochinski is among six returnees from last year's state lineup and qualified individually in all-around, vault and beam. This season, she also is a co-captain with senior Alyssia Van Duch, and they're determined to keep a large group of talented underclassmen positive, consistent and having fun.
"I didn't think it would (feel different being a senior), but I just feel higher. It just feels good," Wochinski said. "I feel like I'm more confident because I am one of the captains this year so I do have a bigger role. Even if something goes wrong, I can't let it get to me. Since I'm the older one, I have to set an example for (the underclassmen). Even if I fall, I can't get upset about it."
Gallo and Jensen, a Level 9 club gymnast, made impressive high-school debuts. Gallo missed all of her freshman season with a dislocated elbow that happened prior to last preseason.
In last year's opener, Anna Johnson broke her left ankle competing on vault and missed the rest of the season. The sophomore returned to action on floor Tuesday and scored an 8.4.
Although she will sit out the start of the season, talented sophomore all-arounder Shannon Lemajeur on her way back to competition form after missing the 2010 postseason with knee surgery for a torn ACL.
"We have some inexperience in terms of meet readiness for high school, but at the same time our seniors, (Wochinski, Van Duch and Onesto) really stepped up and did a great job on the events that they were called upon," Guest said. "We have a nice little balance of kids that have experience on the varsity level and some individuals that haven't competed a lot for us but are really getting their feet wet."
Overcoming the adversity they have could make Wochinski and the Vikings even tougher when the postseason rolls around.
"It sets our confidence really high because we knew we can get through basically anything," Wochinski said. "(Our goals are) high, but you can't set them too high because it is the beginning of the season and you'll never know what happens. But we're happy (so far). We're healthy."
South Elgin/Bartlett/Streamwood co-op
South Elgin/Bartlett/Streamwood co-op senior Taeopae Wetterman knows things look different this season.
At least for Tuesday's season opener at Fremd, they sounded the same.
The team lost 10 seniors to graduation, but three of them made the trip to Palatine, and it made a difference for Wetterman on vault. She landed her Yurchenko tuck for a second-place 9.3.
"I know for me vault's really tough and I need them yelling. Just knowing that they're there, cheering me on, I was able to go and I felt really good," Wetterman said.
"Actually it means a lot (that they came). They're there cheering for you. They've been there for the last couple of years."
SEBS co-op enjoyed many highlights in scoring 130.90 points to finish behind host Fremd (143.95) while beating Rolling Meadows (128.10).
Wetterman later won floor exercise (8.95) and was part of a strong all-around trio with freshman Brenna Lehnus (33.55) and senior Olivia Tabor (33.35) that finished 4-5-6. Elgin senior Ashley Horne, who accompained the team but competes as an individual, was third in all-around (35.45) and a top-five finisher in three events.
Horne was second on floor (8.85) and beam (9.1) with Tabor sixth (8.4). Lenhus tied for fifth on vault (9.2), and Tabor and Horne tied for fifth on uneven bars (8.6) behind four Fremd gymnasts.
Wetterman and Tabor are this season's co-captains.
"(Our focus) is our spirit, get that up and get involved," Tabor said. "(My goals are) actually to gain a lot of skills because I'm not that great and just to get better and the team more involved because we lost a lot of seniors."
Among other newcomers, freshman Samantha Maniago was an all-arounder and junior projected all-arounder Brittney McCauley competed on everything but beam. Injured sophomore Liz DeLeon also should help as an all-arounder.
"We definitley have a lot of talent and a lot of potential, but today, since it's early in the season, we're not quite putting all of our big tricks out there. And we also had a couple of people sick," SEBS co-op coach Amy August said.
"Olivia had a really good beam routine. Taeopae's floor routine was really, really good. We had a few mistakes here and there, lots of falls, especially on beam, but for the first meet that's kind of expected."
Tabor is getting used to competing as an all-arounder this season after being part of the 2010 regional and sectional lineup on vault and floor. Surprisingly, her best routine Tuesday probably was on beam.
"I haven't competed beam in two seasons. I was really surprised. I was happy with it," Tabor said. "I worked all summer, not so much on beam, but bars and floor."
Wetterman was a 2010 individual sectional qualifier in all-around, beam and floor.
"A few of my events are kind of rough around the edges but I just keep working in the gym and hopefully I can get everything back," Wetterman said.
Horne cannot practice simultaneously with the SEBS athletes, but they're adopted her as a "teammate." Horne had been a member of the Elgin-Larkin co-op team that was discontinued this season. Since August teaches part-time at Elgin, she also serves as Horne's official school representitive coach.
In other words, Horne also will be hearing plenty of encouragement whenever she competes this season.
"I think it's good for her because competing by yourself is never an easy thing," Wetterman said. "Having all of us to back her up and support her, I think, that's really going to help her. She's also a senior so I think it's a good end."
Rolling Meadows freshman Rachel Andersen's first high school meet Tuesday came with plenty of adjustments.
Her new varsity teammates include her older sister, senior Emily Andersen.
"When practice comes, she's more of a teammate but at home she's more of a sister," Rachel said. "Sometimes it's kind of nervewracking, but I kind of like it. We're cheering each other on."
Rachel Anderson is one of the few additions to the Mustangs' veteran lineup. In Tuesday's season opener, the Mustangs scored 128.10 points to finish behind host Fremd (143.95) and South Elgin/Bartlett/Streamwood co-op (130.90). Elgin senior Ashley Horne, part of last year's Elgin/Larkin co-op team that was discontinued, also competed individually and had four top-five finishes.
"All around, up and down, I think we're looking pretty good. This is going to be a pretty good year for us," Rolling Meadows coach Mike Costa said. "Rachel is a freshman. Emily is a senior. That one goes, I get this one back (next year) so it starts all over again. The saga continues."
Rachel Andersen (31.50) and Emily Andersen (31.00) were all-arounders along with junior Lauren Cerza (32.75), another key returnee from last season.
Rachel Andersen had a team-high 8.3 on balance beam to tie for seventh place, and Emily Andersen's 8.6 on vault tied for ninth with senior teammates Becky Smith and Jill Pfisterer.
Smith had the highest individual finish, an 8.55 on floor exercise for sixth. Cerza had the top score on the uneven parallel bars (8.1, 9th place).
"We have four returning people and a new person on varsity who just moved up (sophomore Sarah Bohac) and then we have Rachel, which is good. I think we can do better than last year," Emily Andersen said.
"(Rachel has) competed in USAG before so she kind of knows how to compete. It was just interesting to see how she handles meets and pressure. It's just fun to cheer each other on and support each other."
Costa certainly has confidence in the freshman. Cerza was the team's last performers on three of the events. Rachel Andersen performed last on beam and responded.
"I stuck my beam routine, which is pretty good for me," Rachel said.
"(My first meet went) not too bad. I expected not to be doing the best. It could have been worse. I want to get some new skills on each event so then my score can go up. I know I can get them."
The sisters may form a beam bond by the end of the season because Emily believes that event could be her best chance at reaching state. Emily qualified for sectionals last year in all-around and vault.
"I think everyone on varsity cane make it to sectionals, maybe not as a team, but individually," Emily said. "I think I've definitely stepped up as a leader and showed the freshmen what to do and how it all works. I like it because it takes my mind off of my events. I can really get nervous when I think about them a lot."
Besides Rachel Andersen, Cerza has plenty of room to grow as she recovers from a back injury suffered in the early fall. Cerza used more conservative routines on uneven bars and floor Tuesday.
"In two or three weeks, she should be full force back to about 95 percent," Costa said. "If we get Lauren back up around a 34, 35.00 (all-around total), we may even push a 36.00 out of her, if we're lucky, by the end of the year. (And) I'm hoping that Rachel can be in the 34s It's the first meet. We've still got a lot of skills that we're working on and developing that we're going to put in for both of those kids."