Gymnastics: Downers Grove co-op second, Wheaton co-op third at state meet

Downers Grove’s Genevieve Herion, Edie Condon go 1-2 on beam; Hersey takes team title

Downers Grove's Edith Condon competes on the uneven parallel bars during the IHSA Girls State Gymnastics Meet at Palatine High School on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024.

PALATINE – Timing is everything.

Hersey’s girls gymnastics team hadn’t hit all season, but the Huskies were at their best last weekend in Palatine, winning their first state title in 40 years.

“We did not have a good season coming up to this,” Hersey coach Shannon Barrett said. “Yeah, we were undefeated, but we didn’t hit in any of our meets this season until we came here. So it’s been our saying all season that ‘the best is yet to come’ and we sure brought it.”

It’s the best the Huskies have done since winning it all during the 1983-1984 season.

Hersey (146.25) entered the Feb. 16 state meet having posted the fifth-highest score among the eight-team field during the sectionals, but outscored defending state champion Downers Grove co-op (145.4), Wheaton co-op (144.875), Lake Park (144.275) and Vernon Hills (143.825). Glenbrook North (142.2) was sixth, followed by New Trier (140.35) and Lake Zurich (137.55).

The Huskies finished 3.025 points higher than they scored at the Hoffman Estates Sectional. They were the lone team during the Feb. 16 preliminary and all-around competition to score better than they did at the sectional. Wheaton co-op matched the 144.55 it had at its own sectional while the other teams scored lower.

“We haven’t had a best meet yet so our scores have not been reflecting what we can do,” Barrett said. “I’ve been counting a lot of falls so I put on the back of our sweatshirts ‘the best is yet to come’ because I knew if we could come and hit we could win this meet. But we have not hit all season so this was our first meet that we really truly hit. We only counted two falls.”

Those falls were on beam Feb. 16 by Gianna Mazzola and Sabrina Nemcek.

Nemcek still won the all-around Feb. 16 and advanced to the finals on all but beam. On Feb. 17, she won bars (9.675) for the second straight season, also won vault (9.75) and took second on floor (9.55). She scored even better Saturday in all three events than she did 24 hours earlier.

“It feels just amazing,” Nemcek said. “I’ve worked all my gymnastics life – like 13 years – to get to where I’m at today and it feels like all the hard work is paying off. I just went out there and had fun both days and having fun is a really good key to winning this sport.”

Inspired by watching Simone Biles win seven Olympic medals, Nemcek similarly stole the show in leading the Huskies to the title.

“I started (doing) gymnastics when I was three so I was definitely watching the Olympics,” Nemcek said. “Our goal at sectionals was just to make it to to state, and we wanted to get here as a team because all of our seniors are kind of leaving us this year. We came here knowing we had a shot of winning and just went out there and had fun on all the events and kept the hype and energy going throughout all four events. That’s what we did from bars all the way to the vault and we hit.”

After making her final pass during her floor routine, Vernon Hills senior Annika Chudy spotted her family and friends watching her shine.

Chudy, who took second in the all-around with a 37.75 on Friday, won floor (9.675) in memorable fashion, improving her top score in the prelims (9.575). She also took second on bars (9.525).

“I definitely needed that because I was so close to yesterday and all I had to do was stay on the beam,” she said. “It’s really rewarding especially after what happened yesterday. I’m just really grateful to be here and to end up winning.”

Wheaton Warrenville South's Mia LaFratta competes on the uneven parallel bars during the IHSA Girls State Gymnastics Meet at Palatine High School on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024.

Genevieve Herion (9.525) and Edie Condon (9.475) finished 1-2 and Kaelyn Landry was ninth on the beam to help Downers Grove co-op solidify its second-place team trophy.

Both Herion (9.2) and Condon (9.35) outperformed themselves overnight to boost their team’s score.

“It was just amazing and to be right there with my teammate was a special moment,” Herion said. “We’re so proud of each other. We worked our hardest this season and I’m so proud of this team.”

Wheaton co-op’s seniors finished in strong fashion while making history. Haylie Hinckley was third on floor (9.525), Jordan Wach tied for fourth on beam (9.375) and Mia LaFratta was fifth on bars (9.4) to help the team bring home third place.

“I’m so happy. I’m thrilled with our performance these past two days and I’m so excited to place on bars,” LaFratta said. “These bars are my event, my only reason why I’m still doing gymnastics. I’m so happy to be here for that, but more excited by our team’s performance because third place beats school history.”

York senior Angela Stangarone took second on vault (9.7), Lake Park senior Julia Bartnik was third (9.625), DeKalb senior Annabella Simpson was fourth (9.575) and Vernon Hills junior Livy Tran was fifth (9.55). Stangarone was fifth on floor, tying Willowbrook junior Naomi Campbell (9.275).

Oswego's Ava Sullivan competes on the floor exercise during the IHSA Girls State Gymnastics Meet at Palatine High School on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024.

Maine South senior Anastasia Gritsonis tied for fourth place on beam (9.375) with Wach.

Palatine’s Jolee Waddington tied for third on bars (9.45). She also tied for second in the all-around with Chudy.

Oswego juniors Sam Phillip (9.35) and Ava Sullivan (9.0) finished in seventh and ninth place respectively on floor. Sullivan (36.825) was ninth in the all-around and Phillip (36.625) was 12th.

“I did not think I was going to be top 10 in the all-around,” Sullivan said. “I as hoping for floor and I got lucky and kind of choked today, but it’s ok. Not a lot of people, only 10 people can say they were top 10 in the state on floor. And I’ve got next year and I’ll come in punching for the podium.”

Chris Walker

Chris Walker is a contributor to Shaw Local