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Sweet repeat: Lyons Township cruises to gymnastics state title

PALATINE – No dramatics this time.

Lyons Township’s girls gymnastics team repeated as state champions Saturday at Palatine High School, and did so comfortably.

After last year’s comeback during the event finals, the Lions had the title locked up entering Saturday and then added some individual awards on top. LT finished with a team score of 151.275, the highest state score since 2007, and won 11 individual medals.

“It’s so exciting,” junior Kelsy Kurfirst said. “I’m happy we came here again and did what we needed to do. It all just came together.”

Katie Carling and Kurfirst each picked up four medals. Carling, a senior, was second in the all-around, balance beam and floor exercise, and tied for fifth on uneven bars. Kurfirst, a junior, defended her state title on floor exercise and was third in the all-around, vault and balance beam.

Carling, who will be competing for Winona State University in Minnesota beginning next year, said her inspiration was her older sister, Kristi, who was a senior on the 2010 LT team that took second in state.

“I just remember coming here and watching my sister compete and thinking how much I wanted to be on that podium one day, so it was kind of surreal to me,” Carling said. “It kind of was a surprise [to be second in the all-around]. I wasn’t focused at all on that on Friday. I just wanted to do what I knew how to do in the gym. It was a great feeling getting second.”

Michelle Cozza won a state title on bars, tying for first with a 9.5. Cozza, a senior, was also second on vault and coach Kari Karubas said it was the meet of her life. Cozza didn’t qualify for state all-around after a disappointing sectional meet. While competing in all four events for LT as part of the team competition, Cozza totaled a 37.925 all-around, which would have won state.

“I was really calm before I competed and that doesn’t usually happen for me,” Cozza said. “I just knew I needed to hit today and be clean, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Olivia McGann tied for third on bars. Jackie Fuller, Mackenzie Stotz, Kelly Ryser and Cat Mossing also earned championship medals with the team.

The 11 individual medals are an improvement over last year’s eight. Cozza and Carling each finished their careers with five medals.

Kurfirst is up to nine individual medals, but was disappointed she was unable to take first in the all-around. She was less than three-tenths of a point behind champion Claire Rose Ginsberg of Geneva. Her undoing was her bars routine, which is typically her specialty. She scored an 8.85 on bars, which is well below her season average.

“Of course there’s more that I want to accomplish, but I was proud of myself, especially ending on floor like that,” Kurfirst said. “Next year I’d like to make my bar routine. It kind of leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, but I’m glad that I came back and proved it to myself that I can do more.”

"I guess it was a little less pressure, but we still wanted to go out there [Saturday] and hit routines and show them what we were made of." - Katie Carling on locking up the team title a day early.

"It just shows how much our hard work paid off. Everything we did in the offseason ended up working for us. It just feels really great and it means a lot to us." - Carling

"I wouldn't say it [the team title] was expected because we knew we had to hit. I'm just happy we were able to perform under pressure. That's something I'm really proud of." - Michelle Cozza

"I went out there and just kind of had fun with it. I kind of showed it off. I was proud of myself and happy with the result." - Kelsy Kurfirst on her state winning floor routine.

"It meant a lot mostly because every season has its different obstacles and every season has a different amount of focus and attention. This season of all seasons was one of the hardest of our career. We came in with some injuries, we came in with some rustiness, but we also came in with some expectations so we had to work twice as hard. The girls were committed and devoted, but it was intense. We did a lot of practicing how to perform. That being said it paid off. I'm really pleased. It feels wonderful. Some of the hardest working girls I've ever gotten to work with." - Coach Kari Karubas

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