FRANKFORT – Two broken bones prevented the 2013 season from starting as planned for Glenbard North sophomore gymnast TJ Kennedy.
Winning a state title Saturday put the perfect finishing touch on the healing process.
Kennedy suffered two broken bones in the palm of his hand during the Panthers’ first meet of the season. Two months later, Kennedy captured a state title on vault as part of the individual event finals Saturday at Lincoln-Way East.
Kennedy posted a score of 9.45 to best runner-up Nate Elfant of Glenbrook North. He also finished runner-up on floor exercise (9.65) and sixth on horizontal bars (9.05).
“I was really excited,” Kennedy said. “I was hoping to make the top five on the vault and first place is 10 times better. Floor was not my best, but I was still happy with it.
“I’m most happy with my high bar in both the prelims and finals. It has taken me so long to get my high bar to a state final competition level.”
At one point, even competing at the end of the season was in question. Injuring himself on the parallel bars, Kennedy missed nearly six weeks of action, and upon his return, had to quickly make up for lost time.
“I was thinking that I needed to step it up when I returned,” he said, “because I needed to get to the same level with the kids who had been working for six weeks longer than I had.”
Not bad for someone who not long ago took a hiatus from the sport. After beginning his career in kindergarten, Kennedy stopped competing in fifth grade and didn’t return until his freshman year at Glenbard North.
“I was at some of my brother’s (Glenbard North) gymnastics meets,” Kennedy said of his brother, Ryan, “and I saw them all having fun and doing tricks that I knew I could do. I said ‘Why not go back and do it,’ and I ended up liking the sport again.”
Glenbard North coach Michael Crissie was impressed with Kennedy’s speedy recovery and his ability to improve on last year’s third-place finish on floor and sixth on vault.
“TJ coming back from a broken hand and finishing first and second is unbelievable considering I thought he was done for the season,” he said.
Kennedy was not the only Glenbard North gymnast to make it to state. Seniors John Cummins (floor exercise and horizontal bars) and Derrick Nguyen (still rings) also competed in the prelims, as did sophomore Gino Simone (horizontal bars).
“TJ’s accomplishment aside, it was really nice to get the two seniors to the state meet,” Crissie said. “It’s a small team anyway and to get what is essentially all of our varsity gymnasts to state, it was fun for the boys.”