After being teammates in club gymnastics, Glenbard West juniors Taylor Ramirez and Maia Lee and Wheaton co-op sophomore Jamie LaBue and freshman Emily Burnham encouraged each other to try high school gymnastics this season.
“It was a really good decision because we’re all liking the atmosphere,” Ramirez said. “Even though we go to different schools, we still support each other no matter what.”
That bond is continuing to the state meet – and with their new teams.
Glenbard West won Thursday’s Lake Park Sectional with 149.425 points and Wheaton co-op’s second-place 145.20 advanced at-large to the eight-team state field next Friday at Palatine.
Glenbard West junior Maddie Diab won all-around (38.625), uneven parallel bars (9.6), balance beam (9.675) and floor exercise (9.65).
Ramirez, LaBue and Glenbard West freshman Anna Diab also were top-five finishers to automatically reach state individually. Lee, Burnham, Glenbard West juniors Katherine Hoban and Abby Myers and Wheaton co-op junior Macy Smykal advanced at-large.
“As soon as I joined, I knew we could get to state with as hard as we tried at practice,” LaBue said. “The parents helped a lot. We made them T-shirts and they were cheering really loud. And we matched their cheering, too.”
The Hilltoppers, going to state for the third straight year, should contend for their first state trophy and possibly state championship. The self-proclaimed Fligers (the Falcons-Tigers mascots combined) had not qualified since 2000.
“It’s a huge deal,” Wheaton co-op coach Maureen Kermend said. “It’s a really good feeling to see the girls put in a lot of hard work and a lot of the people who invested their time coaching with me, volunteering, especially after a couple of hard years.”
Last season, the lone state qualifier was sophomore Caroline Gillis (floor). Smykal (beam) and junior Jackie Kerth (vault) were 2016 qualifiers. Juniors Jillian Horvatin and Maggie O’Hara and sophomores Maura Clark, Caroline Gillis and Bridget Kennedy also competed Thursday.
“It’s a lot more exciting making it as a team because you’re all there together,” Smykal said. “Probably the cheering and support we all gave each other (helped). We have little pep talks before every event.”
The Hilltoppers posted the highest sectional score by 2.0 points and had a school-record 150.85 Jan. 27. Maddie Diab, Hoban and junior Nina Samuta return from last year’s eighth-place state lineup and Diab and Hoban from the program-best fourth-place 2016 lineup.
Senior newcomer Lily Abella joined Thursday’s floor lineup.
“I’m extremely proud of them, very well deserving of all of their success,” Glenbard West coach Carlos Fuentes said. “In terms of highest finish and score wise, we’re on track. The girls are taking it one step at a time. We talked today about how we strive for perfection at practice so we can settle for greatness at the meets. Then all we ask from them is their best.”
A four-event state champion, Maddie Diab posted the highest sectional scores with her four titles and her second-place 9.7 vault was third-highest.
Her 38.725 regional all-around broke her school record.
“I just want to go out and hit the routines like I’ve been doing the past couple of meets. And, hopefully, put some upgrades in for state finals,” Diab said.
Ramirez (37.35) and LaBue (37.125) finished third and fourth, respectively, in all-around and LaBue (9.525) and Ramirez (9.475) were third and fourth on vault. On floor, Ramirez was third (9.375) and Anna Diab (9.35) shared fourth. Anna Diab (9.425 on uneven bars) and Hoban (9.225 on beam) were fifth.
When Wheaton co-op won its regional Feb. 1 at Wheaton Warrenville South, spectators included Ramirez and Lee.
“I wasn’t expecting them,” Burnham said. “When they came, it was just a big booster.”