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Girls Gymnastics: Andrew hopes for springboard to success

Andrew’s AnnCaruso (left) Emily Ronan Jamie VallValerie Nehls are among areathletes who prepared themselves for gymnastics seasby joining their diving

Andrew’s Anna Caruso (left), Emily Ronan, Jamie Valla and Valerie Nehls are among area athletes who prepared themselves for the gymnastics season by joining their diving team. | Jeff Vorva - For Sun-Times Media

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GIRLS Gymnastics 2012-13

Area gymnasts to watch: (in alphabetical order) Sam Duggan (Sr., Lincoln-Way co-op), Angel Duncan (Soph., Homewood-Flossmoor), Anna Grilch (Soph., Sandburg-Stagg co-op), Kacie Kenney (Jr., Lockport), Hanah Mussalem (Soph., Sandburg-Stagg co-op), Kaila Pohrte (Soph., Lincoln-Way co-op), Emily Ronan (sophomore, Andrew), Jamie Valla (Sr., Andrew).

Big regular-season meets to watch: Lincoln-Way at Sandburg, Dec. 12 (last year Sandburg won 133-132.85); Homewood-Flossmoor Invitational, Dec. 15; Lincoln-Way Invitational, Jan. 5; Sandburg at Andrew, Jan. 16; SouthWest Suburban Conference Meet at Homewood-Flossmoor, Jan. 26.

State meet info: The Illinois High School Association State Meet will be held Feb. 15-16 at Palatine.

Last year’s state champion: Mundelein Carmel.

Last local state champion: Rich Central, which no longer has a gymnastics team, won the crown in 1990.

Last local top-8 state finisher: Sandburg, led by Krystyn Misheck, finished second to Stevenson 148.900 to 148.100 in 2009.

Last area individual champion: Misheck won the floor exercise in the 2009 campaign.

Last season’s SouthWest Suburban Conference champion: Lincoln-Way co-op won its third league title in a row.

Updated: December 22, 2012 6:16AM



Members of Andrew’s girls gymnastics team can’t wait to dive into the 2012-13 season.

They warmed up by joining the diving team.

Senior Jamie Valla, junior Valerie Nehls, sophomore Emily Ronan and junior varsity member Anna Caruso participated on the Thunderbolts’ diving team to help prepare them for the gymnastics season. Valla and Ronan both qualified for sectional competition in diving but did not advance to state.

In recent years, area gymnasts have been taking to diving, including former Lincoln-Way East standout Kaitlyn Neiheisel. Sandburg sophomore Anna Grilch, who qualified for the state meet in gymnastics as a freshman last year, made it to the state meet in diving this season and finished 42nd.

Andrew coach Allison Hack encouraged her athletes to dive in order to stay in shape. Valla said, “The flipping is different but I loved it. It helped us get ready for this season.”

It seems Valla always has been ready for the gymnastics season. Over the past three SouthWest Suburban Conference meets, she’s won 11 events.

She qualified for state her freshman and sophomore years, including a career-best 16th-place finish in the uneven bars in 2011. She missed the first part of her junior campaign recovering from offseason surgery on her right thumb.

She rejoined the competition in the middle of the season and won four out of five events at the Oswego Regional. But at the Hinsdale Central Sectional, she warmed up and disaster struck.

“My right Achilles had been bothering me,” she said. “But in warmups I did one tumbling pass and I could barely walk.”

Her junior season ended just as it started — injured.

“It was rough. It was real bad,” she said. “I was injured at the beginning of the season and for it to happen again was really rough. I got through it, though.”

“It was really hard for her,” Hack said. “That was a season-ender. That was it. But I kept up with her during the offseason and she’s ready to do well this year. For three years, she has been beating all of the records at the school. Some of the records she beat were set by my friends and teammates when I was on the team. I’m looking for a big season from her this year.”

Andrew has had sporadic success over the years. The T-bolts finished eighth in the state in 1980. They are hoping to challenge Lincoln-Way co-op and Sandburg in an attempt to win their first conference crown.

“Everything started out on a positive note. I have high hopes for this team,” Hack said. “We need everyone to stay healthy this season and if that happens the team could do great.”

That includes Valla.

“I’m a lot healthier this season and I’m just looking forward to working on my skills and staying away from injuries,” Valla said. “Every year I feel like I’m getting older and older. It’s horrible to say it at 17 but it’s true. My body is pretty much falling apart. But you just have to keep going.”



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