PALATINE — Entering the event finals Lyons Township trailed the Prairie Ridge co-op by a quarter of a point and had eight chances to make up the difference.
The Lions boosted their team score four times during Saturday's finals at Palatine to claim the first state title in the program's history. It was the first time since 1991 that a team won state after trailing following the preliminaries.
LT finished with a team score of 149.625. Prairie Ridge didn’t improve on Saturday and totaled a 149.3.
Despite the deficit, the Lions entered the day with a loose attitude.
“We felt like we did all we could do (on Friday),” said junior Katie Carling. “Our goal today was just to go in, do gymnastics and have fun. Our motto this season has been “Do what you do” so that’s all we said.”
Junior Michelle Cozza’s uneven bars routine, which tied her for second on the event, got the ball rolling with a 9.5. Carling tied the team standings with a 9.425 on balance beam and Cozza followed with a 9.375 on beam to give the Lions the lead with just one event remaining.
“When I improved on the bar score it got me motivated and I knew that our team had a potential of winning state so we all carried that to beam,” Cozza said. “It was surreal.”
Cozza tied for fifth in the all-around and also picked up medals in vault (9.7, tied for third) and bars (tied for second).
LT coach Kari Karubas confessed to staying up late Friday night looking for ways to squeeze an extra tenth out of the performances without changing any of the elements.
“We knew we had to capitalize on every opportunity, but balance that with the nerves of finals,” Karubas said. “I just woke up this morning and I knew we could do it or at least we had to go down swinging.”
Once the Lions had already locked up the team title Kelsy Kurfirst finished with a flourish by winning floor exercise. Kurfirst scored a 9.725.
“I really didn’t have anything to worry about,” Kurfirst said. “I just went out there and really had fun with it.”
Kurfirst tied for second in the all-around on Friday, scoring a 38.55. Carmel’s Lauren Feely won the all-around with a 38.7 total.
The LT sophomore collected four individual medals in all. In addition to the all-around and her floor win, Kurfirst placed second on vault (9.725) and tied for third on beam (9.425).