HOFFMAN ESTATES – Last year, senior twins Aiden and Shea Rudolph and sophomore Alexander Demeris shared in the efforts of Glenbard West’s boys gymnastics team state championship.
On May 12, they added to program history after Aiden Rudolph and Demeris competed on floor exercise to begin the individual finals at Hoffman Estates.
“Before I went up, I said, ‘If there’s one person I’d want to beat me or get a similar score, it’s [Demeris],’” Aiden Rudolph said.
Rudolph and Demeris each scored 9.55 and shared the state title as the Hilltoppers’ first champions for the event. It’s also the first time that Hilltoppers have shared any individual title.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Aiden Rudolph said. “It’s my senior year. I’ve always dreamed about that moment and it finally happened. I’m happy that I tied with [Demeris].”
The co-title climaxed another great state weekend. The Hilltoppers (158.40 points) finished second to Deerfield (159.80) in the team competition May 11 and ahead of Lyons Township (156.55) after losing four of their five previous meetings, including sectionals.
Wheaton co-op (156.10) was fourth.
“[Our gymnasts] had a great meet,” Glenbard West coach Frank Novakowski said. “They were disappointed initially that they didn’t win. [We told them], ‘You had your best meet of the season at the state meet. You can’t ask for more. Deerfield outscored you.’”
The Hilltoppers combined for six top-five, all-state medals. On parallel bars, Demeris tied for second (9.5), five hundredths of a point from first, with Shea Rudolph fourth (9.45). Aiden Rudolph was fourth on vault (9.3) and Demeris fifth on high bar (9.1).
Wheaton co-op senior Joey DiRienzo was eighth on pommel horse (9.1), a tenth of a point from fifth. The Rudolphs are headed for UMass-Amherst.
Last year, the Hilltoppers had no individual champions but five seconds, including Shea Rudolph and Demeris on parallel bars (9.15).
“Other than the team of course, (2017) was the year of seconds. [On Saturday] we ended up getting first to start the meet,” Demeris said. “I wouldn’t have rather shared it with anyone else. From the first day I walked in, [the Rudolphs] made it fun.”
The Rudolphs and Demeris were the only returnees from the championship lineup but numerous lineup newcomers rose to the occasion this season. Seniors Daniel Eichin, Andrew Lopez and Carlos Sandoval and juniors Coley McArdle and Abu Syed were individual state qualifiers.
Junior Len Phuong, injured for sectionals, contributed a team-high 8.8 on rings on May 11.
“The excitement level was up the whole meet because of how energetic and how many hits we got. It was an awesome experience,” Shea Rudolph said. “Honestly I couldn’t be happier, more proud of my team. Deerfield did really well, which happens, but our team did really well.”
Wheaton co-op made its 10th straight team state appearance. Freshman Nicky Franz was impressive with an all-state fifth in the all-around (53.95) May 11 as the top freshman. Demeris was ninth (52.85) as the top sophomore and Shea Rudolph 11th (52.65).
“That’s a great accomplishment. [The team meet] has a lot of pressure and [Franz] was able to persevere and hit six really good routines. He helped us out a lot,” Wheaton co-op coach Greg Gebhardt said. “I thought we had a really good state meet. We hit almost every event – [season highs] on a couple.”
In his fourth state appearance, DiRienzo reached individual finals for the first time. Frank, senior Aiden Moran and sophomore Cade Houlihan also were individual state qualifiers.
“I can now happily go out as a senior,” DiRienzo said. “This is what the four years have been about, trying to make it to this point and prove to myself that I can do it.”