Prep Sports

Gymnastics: Maleah Crowley, Wheaton co-op soar to season-best score, top Geneva

WHEATON – Wheaton co-op gymnast Maleah Crowley says she has loved flying since she was 2.

The Wheaton Warrenville South senior, who has logged 2 1/2 hours as a pilot, plans to study aviation at Purdue and become a Naval aviator.

“I like traveling,” Crowley said. “I like being above everything, looking over and just seeing the world.”

On Senior Night, Crowley helped Wheaton co-op soar to new heights Wednesday while beating Geneva 141.60 to 138.95.

The Fligers’ third season high in their last four meets was a significant jump from their 138.15 previous best Jan. 5.

“I think we’re more comfortable with each other and the skills. We put on a performance instead of a meet,” Crowley said.

“It’s a really good breakthrough for us, although I do think we can strive to do better.”

WW South senior Ashley Huang won all-around (36.35), sophomore Haylie Hinckley won vault (9.5) and floor exercise (9.4) and they shared first on the uneven parallel bars (9.0).

Geneva senior Kate Nitschke won balance beam (9.15).

The teams will see each other again at the DuKane Conference Meet Jan. 28 at WW South. The Fligers and Vikings should compete for the title with Lake Park, which has won the last two.

The three teams also will be seeded 3-4-5 and should be among the six advancing to the Glenbard West Sectional.

Wheaton co-op’s lineup continues to jell. Four of the seven Fligers who competed Wednesday are newcomers.

“There were some mistakes, which you’re going to have all of the time, but they were (on) and just looked more like a team, which made me happiest,” Wheaton co-op coach Maureen Kermend said.

“We have seven new girls (overall). There’s been a lot of routine construction and getting them onto events that maybe they haven’t done for a while. That was part of the slower start. But they have good execution, which is a nice tool.”

At the 2021 DuKane Meet, Huang won all-around (36.225) and beam (9.3). Huang achieved an all-around personal-best Wednesday that also included a second-place 9.4 on floor and fourth-place scores on vault (9.05) and beam (8.9).

“I think our energy was up, too, not just our scores,” Huang said.

“It’s been really nice (this season). It feels like there a lot less pressure on me. I can just take a lot more risks. It’s nice to have them around.”

Hinckley’s addition has created a great 1-2 all-around punch. Crowley joined them Wednesday.

Crowley, who quit club gymnastics about a year ago, became an all-arounder for the first time by adding uneven bars (8.65). She was second on beam (9.1) and fourth on floor (9.05).

“It was really exciting to do bars again but beam is always a highlight. Beam is my favorite event,” Crowley said.

Geneva, who posted its season-high score of 140.30 on Dec. 15), posted its third highest score even counting five falls often on skills with too much power.

“Honestly, If we can all hit together, we’ll do really well,” Geneva coach Kim Hostman said.

“We’re working super hard to stay clean. But we have some big skills. At practice, they’re super strong and then in the meet, you add some adrenaline so that’s kind of why they’re falling.”

Nitschke equaled her highest beam score and sophomore Maeve Devlin added a solid third-place 9.0. Nitshcke also was third on uneven bars (8.7).

“I feel like (beam) went pretty good. I’ve just been getting better and better throughout the meets,” said Nitschke, a fourth-year team member.

“Last year we didn’t get to do that many meets. We didn’t have as much experience but this year it’s real back to normal and just getting back to our routine.”

Sophomore Brooke Lussnig, who debuted during the COVID-shortened season, was second on vault (9.3) and fourth on floor (9.0) and uneven bars (8.65). Sophomore Graci Weems was third on vault (9.1), which she won at last year’s DuKane Meet.

“This year I’ve been pretty consistent and I’ve been trying to work harder on that so I can give more scores for the team,” Lussnig said. “I really think I’ve improved on everything, just putting in the little things so my scores go up.”