Updated: January 4, 2013 6:12AM
Two area gymnasts who have chosen to compete on the club circuit rather than with their high school teams recently signed national letters of intent to Division I schools.
T.F. North senior Courtney Dowdell will continue her career at Northern Illinois, while Sandburg senior Allison Hansen will head to Iowa State.
Both athletes compete for the Frankfort-based United Gym Academy, whose coach, Glen Willmeng, has sent 12 athletes to Division I schools since 2007.
NIU coach Sam Morreale said Dowdell is part of a recruiting class that “will rival the talent level of any class we’ve ever had.”
Dowdell is a USA Level 10 gymnast, a three-time Region 5 qualifier and qualified for the Junior Olympic National Invitational. Hansen is a two-time Level 10 Junior Olympic National Championships qualifier. In 2011, Hansen placed third in the all-around, second on bars, third on vault, fourth on beam and fourth on floor at the Illinois state championships.
“Allie is a beautiful and athletic gymnast who will be a huge asset to the Cyclone team,” Iowa State coach Jay Ronayne said. “The club she comes from has given her a solid foundation for her to launch a fantastic career at Iowa State.”
Thornton unveiled reigning state champion Kris Williams’ 2011-12 state banner on Friday in a dual against Andrew.
Williams, the Class 3A 106-pound kingpin, was the first Wildcat to win a state title since Shaun Carter (171 pounds) in 1994-95.
“Kris only lost two times as a freshman last year,” Thornton coach Terrance Randolph said. “This year, I don’t expect him to be beat at all.”
Williams missed the Andrew dual because of injury, but Randolph expects him to resume competition in the coming week.
After Lincoln-Way Central conquered the Plainfield Central quadrangular with a 3-0 record, Knights coach Jason DePolo credited seniors Ryan Gromnicki, Robbie Mikenis and Matt Schneider, who came back from an eye injury to finish 2-0, for coming through in the clutch.
“You’ve got to be able to rely on your seniors and we were able to today,” DePolo said. “I think every one of our seniors won today, so that was awesome.”
The Knights will be tested in three tournaments this month. They’ll attend the Hawk Invite at Hoffman Estates before heading for the Dvorak Tournament (Dec. 22) and Granite City Tournament (Dec. 28).
The dual meet Tuesday between Lockport and host Lincoln-Way North will include five sectional champions from last season.
Lincoln-Way North’s Jake Pearson won the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyles last season at the Lincoln-Way East Sectional. Lockport’s Jake Knowles won the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke, and teammate Dan Oldendorf was the 200 freestyle champion at the Sandburg Sectional.
Both North and Lockport are eyeing big seasons and will meet again Dec. 15 at the Neuqua Valley Invitational. Defending state runner-up Naperville North will be among the strong field at Neuqua Valley.
Lincoln-Way North will host its own invitational
Dec. 27. It will include traditional power Sandburg, which tied for fourth at the 2012 state meet. Sandburg has a home dual Friday against longtime power Fenwick.
When the calendar turns, circle Jan. 12 for the Sandburg Invitational and Jan. 19 for the Lockport Invitational for meets to see.
Lockport’s Tyler Pastore on being a diver on the swimming team:
“We do a lot for the team. We help out wherever we can, trying to get the kids prepared for the meets. We stay individual-wise in the sport, but we basically are one big team.’’
Lockport is in a state finals appearance drought since finishing as state runner-up in 2008-09. The Porters have fallen short at sectionals the last three seasons, falling victim to what most believe were the toughest sectional fields in the state each year.
Could this be the year the Porters return to state?
Experience is certainly on their side. Their top six bowlers are all seniors, led by Shane Matejcak, Brian Hodolitz, David Wysocki and Alex Wilmsen.
“We’re going to rely on experience and growth all year,” Lockport coach Jeff Wyatt said. “All of our seniors have been up on varsity in the past. Hopefully, that’ll make a big difference.”
Matejcak expects he and his teammates to have more of a comfort level this season.
“A lot of us started last year,” he said. “We’re used to bowling together as a team and we have a lot of experience.”
Lockport has posted some big dual wins early in the season, most notably a 2,274-2,070 victory over defending state champion Andrew.
The Porters also topped Plainfield Central 3,148-2,938 in a three-game dual in which Matejcak and Hodolitz led the way with series of 688 and 670, respectively.
Lockport took fourth in the Plainfield North Invitational.