O'Keefe becomes first sophomore state medalist under current head coach
PALATINE — In all her years of gymnastics, Glenbard West sophomore Mackenzie O'Keefe has never been the only one performing at a competition.
On Saturday, O'Keefe got to experience what it's like to have all eyes on her during the uneven bars finals at the state meet in Palatine.
O'Keefe went on to place fourth in the event with a score of 9.4.
“It was crazy," O'Keefe said. "I was really excited more than anything to go by myself and everybody cheering for you is really great. It gets you more pumped. Your adrenaline is really high.
“That was my goal to get on the podium so I’m super excited.”
In the process, she became the first sophomore medalist in Carlos Fuentes' reign as head coach.
"That has been her specialty, the one event she hangs her hat on," Fuentes said. "All year, we really trained to get her to a state final and to have a chance to earn a medal.
"We wanted to make sure we trained hard enough and smart enough to put her in a position to earn a medal. And then she had a great routine and was able to finish fourth."
O'Keefe competed in the all-around competition as well on Friday and placed 10th with a total of 37.250.
Also advancing to Saturday's event finals was freshman Amber Broucek, who despite battling illness all week, came in 10th on the balance beam.
"She was one of only two freshmen to advance to the finals," the coach said, "and actually the other freshman didn't compete (on Saturday) because of the flu. Amber came down with the flu last week and practiced very little on Tuesday and didn't practice Wednesday and Thursday.
"She felt sick all day Friday but being the state meet, nothing was going to keep her out of that meet."
As a team, Glenbard West came in seventh with a score of 143.425.
"I was very pleased with how they performed," Fuentes said. "My goal was for them to have a positive experience in their first state meet. We hope to be back the next few years."
The Hilltoppers do appear primed to make a return trip in 2013-13 as the squad loses just two seniors to graduation in all-arounder Abbie Garchitorena and vault specialist Rachel Gaphof.
"This group has tons of promise for the future," Fuentes said. "It's a hard-working group, they like to work hard. As much as they like accolades, they understand you have to work hard and earn the right to compete at a sectional and the state meet.
"This year, they really met all of my expectations and exceeded them on many occasions."
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