Oswego co-op lets gymnasts Tumble for the Troops

 The Oswego co-op gymnastics team made its annual Panther Invitational even more special Dec. 28.
This year’s invite raised funds for Operation Support Our Troops Illinois, selling Tumble for the Troops T-shirts with proceeds going toward the organization, as well as accepting donations after previously compiling bins of food items.
“This is our first time that we’re doing this,” Oswego co-op coach Sarah Dugan said. “It’s kind of been a work in progress until this year and we got it all together, got some parents to help out, got the T-shirts ordered and the girls donating items so it’s been a good thing, a great turnout for it.”
Immediately after the invite, Dugan was aware at least a couple of hundred dollars had been collected. It takes around $25 to deliver one box of items.
“That’s quite a few boxes we can ship out,” Dugan said. “I have family members, brothers who have both been in the military, so I’m very, very involved with that and it’s always been a big thing. We kind of wanted to do a community service thing. I know basketball has done a Hoops for Healing and volleyball does a Volley for the Cure. We kind of wanted to give in another way and help out.”
The invite also expanded to 12 schools represented with St. Edward, Romeoville and Yorkville allowed to send individual competitors.

Glenbard West captures first Oswego Invite title

 Glenbard West has so much depth this season that it had scored well even without senior Becky Mladucky an all-arounder.
On Dec. 28, the returning all-stater competed all four events for the first time this season and that helped the Hilltoppers score 144.075 points and win the Panther Invitational at Oswego for the first time. DeKalb, competing for the first time as a team, was second (139.70) with Stevenson (135.55) third.
What’s scary is that the Hilltoppers should continue to score higher as the season progresses.
“Kind of the plan from the beginning of the year was to slowly pace ourselves to get where we need to. Six of the eight kids are juniors and seniors so we feel we have all of the experience,” Glenbard West coach Carlos Fuentes said.
“We’re getting close to putting in our full lineup. It’s kind of been slowly but surely. We’ve put a 144 (score) a couple of times now. We counted a few falls today still so we still have a little bit more room to grow. We’re kind of right on track.”
Mladucky, seniors Shannon Dietz and Megan Brennan and juniors Missy Guzman and Nicole Pagor, combined for 11 top-10 finishes. Junior Shauna Gialluisi, who had two top-15 finishes, sophomore Abbie Garchitorena and freshman Maggie Phillips also were part of the lineup.
Mladucky, who has been competing on the uneven parallel bars and balance beam, was fourth in all-around (36.55) , her first all-around effort since the 2010 state meet, when the Hilltoppers finished fifth.
Mladucky was second on uneven bars (9.4) to DeKalb senior Jessica Morreale (9.6) and second on beam (9.25) to DeKalb junior Alyssa Lopez (9.425).
“(Mladucky’s) back is feeling a lot better and she’s trying to get in there,” Guzman said. “Right now we have all of the routines. We’re hitting them and stuff. We’re just trying to clean it up, make sure we get all of the tenths out of our routines.”
Guzman was second on floor (9.55) to St. Edward’s Abby Madden (9.55), third on beam (9.2) and fourth on uneven bars (9.05), Pagor was fifth on floor (9.175) and tied for sixth on vault (9.3) and Dietz was fifth on uneven bars (9.025).
Guzman is working her way back to all-around after injuring her toes and head during her uneven bars dismount against Lyons Township Jan. 8. Scheduled to be an all-arounder that night, Guzman then scratched from vault and beam.
“I went back in the gym the next day, did quite a few doubles after that (on uneven bars) and they’re good now, actually. I feel like they’re better than ever,” Guzman said. “My vaults have been feeling a lot better during practice and (Fuentes) said they’re getting there.”

Guzman is just part of a determined lineup trying to earn the program’s first state trophy. The Hilltoppers’ lone all-arounder at last year’s sectional, Guzman badly sprained her ankle the Monday before state but still competed on floor and uneven bars at state with Mladucky taking her all-around spot for the team.
Guzman even managed to join Mladucky in the individual floor event finals, where they finished ninth and 10th, respectively.
“I was surprised I made it to finals,” Guzman said. “I was surprised actually I was even able to compete floor, but I really was just icing it and trying not to do too much on it until I had to.”
When everything clicks for the Hilltoppers, look out.

“Even the misses we have, we feel that we can go over a 9.0 on every single event with every single kid,” Fuentes said. “Our goal is to be above 9.0 on everything and obviously a couple of kids that’ll go a little higher than that. We’re still in the running. We’re lying in the weeds a little. But we’re still there.”

 DeKalb makes history with first meet as a team

 The first DeKalb High School girls gymnastics team has arrived during senior Jessica Morreale’s last chance.
“It never even crossed my mind I would compete high school gymnastics,” Morreale said. “It’s great. I wish it would have come in earlier so I could have done it more, but I think it’s great.”
On Dec. 28, the Barbs made their historic debut by competing at Oswego’s Panther Invitational, and their 139.70 points earned second place to Glenbard West’s 144.075.
Leading the way were junior Alyssa Lopez and Morreale, who also will be teammates in college for the University of Iowa.
Lopez won all-around (37.475), vault (9.75) and balance beam (9.425) and was fourth on floor exercise (9.35) and sixth on uneven parallel bars (8.95).
Morreale won uneven bars (9.6) and was second on vault (9.625), third in all-around (37.l25) and sixth on beam (9.15).
The rest of the lineup were sophomore all-arounders Anita Bell (10th, 34.15), who was ninth on uneven bars (8.35), Emily Hartwig (30.70) and Emily Stuebing (28.55).
“I think we did good for our first high school meet. The atmosphere, we were all just cheering each other on, trying our best and I think we did pretty good,” Lopez said. “Here it’s a lot more laid back and more fun and cheerful. For club (meets), it’s more serious and a lot more competitive.”
The opportunity nearly didn’t happen. Competing this season still was a question mark as late as the middle of December.
DeKalb athletic director Dan Jones and Andy Morreale, owner and coach at Energym Gymnastics club in Sycamore and Jessica’s father, were able to work out the logistics in time.
“We’ve been talking about it off and on. I’m a club coach so trying to make it work (is a challenge) because it is busy,” Andy Morreale said. “We weren’t really sure we were going to do a program and then got started in the middle of December and then kind of put the word out to get some meets.”
Under IHSA by-laws, the Barbs need to compete in at least six meets to be eligible for postseason team consideration. The season opener was supposed to be at Geneseo Dec. 21, but that meet had to be rescheduled. Two more meets will be at Oswego, and DeKalb also is entered in the Independent Conference Meet.
“We need to look a little better than we did today, though,” Andy Morreale said.
Next year, the Barbs hope to play host to a home invite at the newly built DeKalb High School. Forming a co-op team with Sycamore High School in the future may be considered.
There are 10 girls in the DeKalb program (5 varsity, 5 junior varsity) with Jessica Morreale and Lopez the only senior and junior. All five varsity gymnasts have trained at least at some time at Engergym, where the team practices.
“That’s probably the toughest part. You’ve got to separate the girls in the gym. They each have to be in their own groups,” he said.
One big change for the gymnasts is not having the touch warmups similar to club meets. Instead, their event performances came hours after the warmups.
“The no touch – that’s hard,” Lopez said. “We practiced it in the gym, doing cold routines so it was a challenge but it wasn’t that hard. We’re used to it.”
Lopez, who committed to Iowa less then a month ago, won vault with a layout Yurchenko, although she usually performs a Yurchenko full and is working doubles.
Jessica Morreale, who believes beam is her strongest event, also threw a layout Yurchenko and is working on a Yurchenko layout full. She officially signed with Iowa in November.
The new team already has brought about one great change. Lopez and Morreale have qualified for club nationals – Lopez even won a national vault title – but they never received recognition at DeKalb because it was not a high school-sponsored sport.
Well-earned recognition is coming quickly now. 
“Every day people are like, ‘Are you on the (gymnastics) team? Are you on the team?’ ” Lopez said. “Just being a part of the high school (team), everybody knows how hard you work and they can see.”
“The fact that we’re being acknowleged at the school is really cool because we worked so hard every day. It’s nice to know it’s paying off now,” Jessica Morreale said. “Even the town knows too because with DeKalb High School, people just know what goes on there.”

 Stevenson's Pagano excited to be an all-arounder

 Stevenson senior Caitlin Pagano was grateful and excited that she was needed as an all-arounder at the Oswego Invite.
For the first time in nearly a year, she could oblige.
With the Patriots using only five gymnasts, Pagano competed as an all-arounder for the first time since last year’s Lake County Invite. She missed the 2010 postseason with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery in May and another surgery in September because nerves were becoming restricted by scar tissue.
“It feels really good. I’m getting all of my skills back that I could do last year,” Pagano said. “I probably won’t be going past that because I won’t have the time, but getting those skills back that I did last year is really important and it feels good to be doing them actually.”
Pagano did well for the Patriots (3rd, 135.55 points), whose absences included standouts Ali Castriano, Carlie Dobkin, Becca Feltman-Frank and Amanda Holleb.
While junior Theresa Wojton (35.75) and sophomore Riley Trebilco (35.15) were fifth and sixth in the all-around, Pagano was 11th (34.10), followed by juniors Lauren Whalen (30.05) and Dani Webb (28.975).
Pagano also was seventh on uneven bars (8.8) and tied for 10th on floor (8.975), which was especially impressive. When Pagano finally received clearance to compete, it was the first official day of high-school practice. She began the season only competing on beam since none of her skills stressed her elbow, followed by uneven bars, floor and vault.
“I’ve just been slowly progressing at being able to be 100 percent cleared. It’s been rough but I’ve been progressively getting my strength back and getting my skills back and just working really hard,” Pagano said.
Wojton was eighth on uneven bars (8.7) and beam (8.75) while Trebilco tied for fourth on beam (9.175) and tied for sixth on vault (9.3).
Castriano, the defending state beam champion, Pagano, Wojton and Dobkin were part of the 2009 state championship lineup but the Patriots didn't qualify in 2010, partly because of Pagano's injury. With a healthy Pagano and Trebilco making strides, the Patriots feel  they can return to state as a team.
“That’s my goal. I really want to help and do a lot and hopefully in the state series when we get there,” Pagano said. “We’re definitely stronger as a team this year. Last year, I think we were a little shaky after I got hurt and stuff. This year we’re kind of probably under people’s radars. I think we’re better than people expected and we’re a lot stronger mentally and physically.”

 Work on vault paying off for Oswego co-op's Price

 For junior Kyla Price and her Oswego co-op teammates, the annual home Panther Invitational is a special chance to showcase themselves.
The meet is during winter break and nearby at Oswego High School. Among the special fans for Price were her grandmother and two best friends from Oswego East, the high school she attends.
“It’s kind of nice to have some friends and family in the audience, just cheering you on,” Price said. “It’s fun. It just kind of boosts your confidence a little bit, just knowing that you know the equipment and everything.”
On Dec. 28, Price put on a memorable performance with a career-high 9.425 on vault to finish fourth. Always strong on vault, Price landed her new pike Tsukahara this season for the third time in a meet.
“I was really happy because I beat our team record on vault (over) the past few years so it’s a big accomplishment for me,” said Price, whose previous best was a 9.275 from freshman year.
“(Vault is) just something I’ve always been good at ever since I was really little. I’ve worked really hard on it so hopefully it pays off, go to state maybe.”
Oswego co-op finished fifth (133.475 points). Price also was 10th on floor (8.975), and Amanda Padlo
tied for 10th on uneven bars (8.275). In the all-around, Price (34.10) tied for 11th, and Padlo (33.475) and Kathryn Maher (33.225) were 13th and 14th.
“(I’m working on) just cleaning up everything else and trying to get my all-around a little higher,” Price said.

 Batavia's Hagemann vaults in season debut

 Although Batavia senior Meggan Hagemann anticipated the opening meet of another season, she couldn’t have felt much worse.
She required an appendectomy.
“I was at practice and it kind of hit me and that night I was in emergency surgery,” Hageman said. “It kind of put a damper on the whole season. It was right before all of the fun starts.”
On Dec. 28, roughly five weeks after her surgery, Hageman made her competitive season debut at Oswego’s Panther Invitational by competing on vault with a team-best 8.8 for 15th place. The Bulldogs finished ninth with 119.275 points.
Hagemann nearly also competed on balance beam, but she decided not to push herself too far just yet.
“Nervewracking. Actually it went a lot better than I was planning on,” Hagemann said. “Being out for five weeks kind of takes a toll on your gymnastics in general so coming back it was nice at first. I was getting kind of nervous, but it actually went really well.”
Hagemann is important for the Bulldogs as a co-captain with Nikki Flesvig and as a senior for a team that graduated 13 seniors but also has back all of its 12 underclassmen from last season.
The graduations included Danae Fuqua, an all-around standout for the 2009 team that earned the program's first state team berth and finished eighth.
“Danae was as big leader and helped me with everything. (Meggan) ordered warmup leotards and took all of my workouts, which was nice,” Batavia coach Taryn Boyce said.
Hagemann has proven also to be disciplined. Initially diagnosed to be out four to six weeks after surgery, Hagemann was cleared in 4 ½ weeks by doing absolutely nothing in a sport as risky as gymnastics.
“They didn’t want me to herniate anything. They gave me strict instructions and they were like, ‘If you go against it and we find out, you’re out for another week every time,’ ” Hagemann said.
“It was rough having to be out there. As much as I was cheering on all of the girls, it was so hard not being able to be out there with them. It was awesome (to compete again). The nerves hit me at first and I don’t really get nervous but after it, I was so relieved and I was really happy with everything.  And all of the girls really stepped it up so it was really good.”
Sarah Ganser was 17th on floor (8.7) and 21st in the all-around (32.00) and Brittany Whalen was 23rd on beam (8.025).
“Every meet we’ve had we’ve kind of shuffled around (our lineup). JV kids are competing varsity,” Boyce said. “We’re definitely rebuilding, but the girls are all working really hard and getting new skills. We’ve had a couple of new tumbling passes on floor today. Bars is still our weak event, but it’s a tough one to get big skills on right away. We just need to stay on the beam. Floor and vault are pretty much there.”