Barrington has a lot of people back this season, but an important member was missing for Tuesday’s Mid-Suburban League West Division meet at Schaumburg.
Just before the bus ride, the Fillies were told that they would be competing without head coach Jason Loeffler after the death of his father, Alan.
“We didn’t know until we were grabbing our stuff, about to get our food and leave (for the meet),” Barrington senior Lexi Marsella said.
“It’s a rough meet today. We feel bad. Jason is one of the closest coaches that I’ve ever had. And I know that he loves this team. It’s really hard to see someone that we love and we look up to be really hurt. It’s awful.”
Barrington may have lost 142.40-133.20 but showed plenty of courage considering the circumstances and a lineup affected by injuries. The Fillies used eight gymnasts with Marsella and freshman Laine Leedstrom as all-arounders.
Assistant coach Nancy Smarinski oversaw the team, which dedicated its performances to Loeffler.
“(Smarinski) was very positive, very helpful and she brought us here, all 43 girls ,and one of Jason’s best friends thankfully showed up to help us out,” Marsella said.
“It was really tough but (Smarinski) kept us very focused and very positive. Without her, I feel like we probably wouldn’t have been as positive a team as we are. We came out for Jason, our coach, to do well for him and hopefully go home and be like 'Yes, I did this,' and 'Yes I did this,' to kind of lift his spirits. We tried to stay positive as a team. I was trying to stay positive as a captain, as a leader and I’m hoping it wore off on the team. It looks like it did so I’m glad that’s how it happened.”
Marsella won vaulting (9.05), was third on the uneven parallel bars (8.7) and tied for third on balance beam (8.5) and floor exercise (9.15). Marsella also was third in all-around (35.40) behind Schaumburg senior Brooke Shimon (36.65), who won bars (9.25) and beam (9.2), and junior Ashley Miller (36.10), who won floor (9.4). Leedstrom tied for fourth on uneven bars (8.65).
Hopefully, this is the only time Marsella will have difficulty competing. Last season, she suffered an ankle injury about a month before sectionals but battled her way back. Three days before sectionals, she broke her left ankle in two places and never got the chance to compete at state.
“Looking back on it, my broken ankle was my best friends. Thanks to my broken ankle, I come back now this year knowing that’s my spot,” Marsella said. “It was a huge blow. I was really upset about it, considering I came back and I wanted it. I felt it. I was right there and I had it ad then something like that happens and it’s all gone.
“I came to state last year on my crutches, watched and it’s really hard knowing that’s my spot but this year I’m coming back and I’m getting that spot. There’s nothing stopping me this year. I’m going to do it.”
With juniors Tori Brunet, Hannah Heider, Marissa Krzysko and Tiffany Persels also back, the Broncos certainly have enough talent to make a run for the program’s first state team berth since 2003.
On Tuesday, Krzysko only competed on bars to rest a back injury while Brunet also sat out after hurting her ankle at Saturday’s Rolling Meadows Invite. Persels has been out since the preseason with an elbow injury.
Also in Tuesday’s lineup were seniors Emily Stackhouse and Monique DeAvilla, junior Clair Timlin and freshman Brook Morgan, limited to two events by an ankle injury.
“Right now, these (meets) are just getting us ready, warming us up for coming to state,” Marsella said. “At the end of the year, I’m hoping for a completely healthy team that’s ready to come back and just prove everyone wrong.”