Gymnastics: With season-high score, Glenbard West wins eighth straight District 87 Invite title
By Bill Stone
Glenbard West girls gymnasts Skylar Oh and Sammy Hopper felt fairly victorious at last season’s District 87 Invitational when they finished second on uneven parallel bars and floor exercise, respectively, in their sophomore seasons.
Senior teammate and multiple all-stater Anna Diab won every event.
“I definitely think to come second to her, that was really cool for both of us,” Oh said. “Now that she’s gone, to still be able to move on and improve, that’s really good for us and we’re really excited.”
The Hilltoppers may no longer have an all-state caliber all-arounder, but their depth again has them among the state meet team contenders. Glenbard West scored a season-high 142.35 on Dec. 21 in Glen Ellyn to win the District 87 Invite for the eighth straight year.
All eight Hilltoppers achieved top-five individual finishes and seven were top three. That included first-place titles for Oh in the all-around (35.75), Hopper on vault (9.35) and floor (9.45) and freshman Grace Flint on uneven bars (9.3). Glenbard North junior Brooklyn McQuillan won balance beam (8.75). The Panthers (128.55) edged Glenbard East (128.50) for second, followed by Glenbard South (121.90).
Glenbard West had scored in the 141s in its first three meets.
“We’re really excited to get into the 142s. We’ve worked really hard to get there,” Hopper said. “We can always improve so that goes to show that we can get higher scores.”
This is the Hilltoppers’ first time since the 2014-15 season without Anna Diab or 2019 graduate Maddie Diab, her older sister who collected 10 individual state titles. There was no 2021 state series because of COVID-19 restrictions. After back-to-back state titles, the Hilltoppers missed returning to state in 2020 by .175.
Oh, seniors Meagan McNamara and Alina Bhagwakar and junior Brooklyn Ford were part of that 143.225 at sectionals.
“It’s absolutely on our mind. (The 2020 sectionals) does drive us every single day,” Glenbard West coach Carlos Fuentes said. “Everybody’s upped their game. My words of wisdom after last year were we don’t have to replace Anna Diab. We only have to replace a .1 or .2 from each of you. We have so many athletes that are good on one, two or three events. It’s the combination of all of the pieces that make us special.”
Oh won all-around by .15 over Hopper (35.60). Oh was second on uneven bars (9.25), floor (9.25) and vault (9.2). Completing 1-2-3 Glenbard West event sweeps were McNamara’s 9.1 vault and Bhagwakar’s 9.15 on uneven bars. Sophomore Janelle Gama shared fifth on vault (8.8).
“I’ve been working hard, I feel, to get all events to be pretty decent. I struggle on beam,” Oh said.
McQuillan won beam over Glenbard West junior Autumn White (8.7) and Ford (8.65). McQuillan was third in all-around (35.55) and floor (9.2) and fourth on uneven bars (9.1).
“(Winning beam) was actually a big surprise to me. I didn’t even see my score after the routine,” McQuillan said. “This is, surprisingly, a really good meet for me. I had a lot of old teammates cheering me on so that helped a lot.”
Glenbard East senior Riley Olson shared third on vault (9.1), was fourth on beam with a lifetime-best 8.45 and was fifth in all-around (32.95). Sophomore Emma Iwaniszyn was fourth on floor (8.65) and tied for fifth on vault (8.8). Olson, the Rams’ lone varsity senior, has upgraded her tuck Tsukahara vault to a pike.
“It’s one of my best events so I worked really hard to make sure they would be solid to help the team score,” Olson said. “I like to be a leader and trying to teach the younger kids to become a leader one day when I leave.”
In all-around, Bhagwakar was fourth (34.70). Glenbard East junior Ella Kud (32.40) and Glenbard South junior Brooke Poltrock (32.25) were sixth and seventh. In her District 87 debut, Poltrock had the Raiders’ highest scores and four top-10 event finishes.
“I recognize a few girls from my old gymnastics (club). I know some of the girls from other teams and they’re all really nice,” Poltrock said. “I think we’re doing really good this year and we’re improving a lot.”