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Druley: St. Charles gymnasts progressing toward state meet

ST. CHARLES – St. Charles co-op gymnasts arrived at Thursday’s practice without much fanfare. There was no music, no banner, just hellos to the St. Charles Gymnastics Academy staff as athletes walked from the locker room to the floor.

About 18 hours earlier, the team finished its final balance beam routine in a triangular at Geneva, cementing a score that otherwise was worth crowing about. Right?

There might have been more noise had these girls planned to stop at the program-best 146.8 they established Wednesday. Thing is, they want to keep churning well past a midweek victory against Geneva and the Bartlett/Streamwood/South Elgin co-op, keeping their focus on next month’s state meet. Call 146.8 encouraging and certainly special, but ultimately file it away as another progression toward what’s shaping up as a special season.

“This just gives us that much more drive to want to work harder to our goal,” St. Charles North senior Jesi Ortiz said.

St. Charles eclipsed its previous-best score of 146.2 set in 1998, one year after coach Amy Lill graduated from St. Charles High. The team edged a game group from Geneva, which scored a 144.5. A 160 equals perfection, but top teams traditionally score between the mid-140s to 150.

On the heels of some inconsistency in recent years, St. Charles opened the winter strongly and has progressed from week to week. While athletes have met their share of physical challenges as Lill amps up the difficulty of routines, they also have been strong mentally. Lill was especially elated with the way no one blinked when the team drew the traditionally nerve-racking beam as its final event Wednesday. Kelly Gorniak (9.35) Cathryn Gotlund (9.3) Rachel Dugan (9.25) and Sidney Copeland (9.2) shined, much as the group has all season

“We worked a lot in the summer and we were really prepared even before the season with our routines,” said Copeland, a St. Charles East junior. “In the past, we’ve still just been getting our routines before meets and now we’re prepared a month or months earlier.”

St. Charles is set to host its lone home meet when Lake Park visits the St. Charles Gymnastics Academy on Monday. Before departing for Geneva this week, the team encountered one student who wasn’t aware the St. Charles high schools even shared a gymnastics team.

Copeland, Ortiz and Dugan, an East freshman, said a handful of students approached them in the hallways Thursday about their feat the night before.

If students still are beaming in February, the co-op likely will have reached its goal. Ortiz joined 2012 graduate Kaylee Arnold as an individual at last season’s state meet, but St. Charles is after its first team appearance since 2008.

“Especially because it is my senior year, I think it would be a great goal to accomplish,” Ortiz said. “And at the rate we’re going, I mean, knock on wood, it seems like it would be an awesome achievement.”

Following through: Lindsay Madej coached a handful of sports at North before leading the girls bowling program. The list included volleyball, which she played in college.

While bowling was not an extensive part of her sporting background, she finds there’s one key aspect that transfers from any sport to the lanes.

“If you have athleticism, it’s an easier sport to pick up. It’s mentally very frustrating, but the athletics and the mechanics of it, if you’re an athlete, it’s the same as all sports I’ve played,” Madej said. “If you have the follow-through – whether it’s volleyball or basketball or badminton or bowling – if you follow through, that’s, you know, three-quarters of the battle.”

Madej competes in an adult bowling league with her husband, Ron, a former Kane County Cougars pitcher.

Back issues: Batavia anticipated hosting – and defending – a pair of premier running backs in the first two weeks of the 2013 football season.

With Tommy Mister’s recent transfer from Week 2 opponent Richards to St. Rita, that total has been thrown for a loss.

Mister, who has scholarship offers from Illinois, Indiana and Notre Dame, would likely have loomed large on the Bulldogs’ game plan one week after Batavia renewed acquaintances with heavily-coveted Justin Jackson of Glenbard North.

In the 2012 season opener, Bulldogs senior safety Chris Moran stopped Jackson – whose eight collegiate offers include Boston College, Northwestern and Purdue – on a two-point conversion attempt with 1:02 remaining. Batavia held on for a 42-41 road victory, handing Glenbard North its lone loss until the 8A state championship game against Mount Carmel.

• Kevin Druley is a sports writer for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or

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