SYCAMORE – With no state championship last season and no team berth the year before, Maddy Kees and the DeKalb-Sycamore gymnastics team have a pretty clear outline of what they want to accomplish when the postseason starts next month.
“Obviously, hopefully make it as a team, that’s first and foremost,” Kees said. “Then hopefully to qualify for all five events, place top-five in the all-around would be awesome. To win an event title or two would be awesome as well.”
With one meet left Thursday before the DuPage Valley Conference meet Jan. 28, and a still-unassigned regional Feb. 1, coach Andy Morreale said the team is starting to get healthy and build on its early-season success.
The Barbs’ top score this year is 141.175, set Dec. 10 at their home meet. The average of their top three scores, the criteria used for seeding postseason tournaments, is 141.19. That puts them fifth in the state.
Morreale said he expects his scores to start rising beginning Thursday, with Kees and Eden Russell, a state qualifier with Kees two years ago, no longer watering down routines because of prior injuries and/or illnesses.
“Things are good,” Morreale said. “We’ve been a little nicked up but everybody is getting healthy. We’re actually on a good upward trend. I’m looking to this Thursday being our highest score of the year because we have everyone competing. It’s a good way to head into [the conference tournament].”
Now a senior, Kees medaled twice as a freshman at state. She qualified for the final day two years ago but didn’t medal, and last year there was no state tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Morreale said Kees, who committed to Northern Illinois University, is focused on getting to the final day and into the top five.
“Maddy just wants to finish up her senior year the best she can,” Morreale said. “She has committed to Northern. She wants to get to state and place in all-around. That’s every all-arounders top goal, get there, peek and do the job at the state meet.”
Kees said there were multiple things that drew her to NIU, including coaches Sam Morreale, Andy Morreale’s brother, and Dawnita Teague.
“First of all, I love Sam, Nita and all the coaches,” Kees said. “They are absolutely amazing. We were on the same page of just about everything. And the girls on the team really helped me with that decision. When I went there and visited, I just felt like I clicked. I saw myself fitting in perfectly there. I just love all the resources and support from everyone there.”
Russell made Day 1 of the state tournament two years ago but didn’t advance. She said she’s looking forward to do what she didn’t have a chance to last season.
“Comparing myself to freshman year, since last year we didn’t really have a state run or anything, freshman year I made it to state on one event,” Russell said. “I’m hoping to make it to state in at least one event again. Hopefully, we can make it as a team. I know we’re fully capable of doing that.”
Morreale said Russell is motivated this season and prepping for a deep postseason run.
“She’s upgraded her routines and doing some harder stuff,” Morreale said. “She’s finally putting it all together, hitting routines. Beam is probably her biggest upgrade. She out of everybody has really upgraded her routines. She’s hungry. She got there on vault and got a little taste. I think she wants to get there as an all-arounder.”
Morreale said he expects the sectional at Glenbard West will be tough but expects the Barbs will be able to not only advance but finish high at state.
“I expect us to win conference and regionals,” Morreale said. “We have Glenbard West for sectionals, so that will be tougher. But I think we’re scoring about the same as Glenbard West. They had one score that’s a little higher than us. There’s about six teams all in the same area. So it should be dog-eat-dog.”