Girls Gymnastics: Southland squads enjoy youth movement
By Jeff Vorva For Sun-Times Media January 25, 2013 11:34PM
Lincoln-Way co-op freshman Mallory Winter is one of several young gymnasts making an impact this high school season. | File photo
Updated: February 28, 2013 6:03AM
Andrew’s Jamie Valla has established herself as one of the best gymnasts in the south suburbs during her four years on varsity, but it wasn’t that long ago that she was one of the young stars on the rise.
Now that she’s a veteran, she is looking over her shoulder and said she’s amazed at some of the up-and-comers in the area.
“It’s going to be interesting to see,” she said. “There is a lot of good young talent. People are going to be in for a big surprise the next few years.”
In the 12-team Lincoln-Way Invitational on Jan. 5, eight of the top 12 SouthtownStar area all-around finishers were either freshmen or sophomores.
At the 10-team Homewood-Flossmoor Holiday Invitational in December, eight of the top 10 individuals from the area in the all-around were freshmen or sophomores.
Those are the only two meets that bring all four area teams together against state powerhouses during the regular season, and underclassmen have enjoyed success when comparing the area talent out there.
Lincoln-Way sophomore Kaila Pohrte finished sixth in the all-around at the Lincoln-Way invite and is one of the top underclassmen to watch. She said she sees more athletes her age from the area taking advantage of club gymnastics to help lead to the success.
“Most of the top gymnasts have club experience and that gives us a big advantage,” Pohrte said. “It gives us more opportunities.”
Lincoln-Way coach Skip Adamson has seen plenty of freshmen phenoms and sophomore sensations in more the 20 years of coaching. He warns that not all of them have a huge spike in improvement over the years.
“Usually freshmen come out quick and then maintain,” Adamson said. “It’s hard to find a freshman who comes on and gets that much better, whereas a sport like football or baseball it can take two or three years to climb the ladder.
“In this sport they can jump right in and be good. You can come in and be gangbusters and then they have to hold off the other freshmen.”
Here is a look at some of the gymnasts who could have an impact for the next two or three years:
Aside from Pohrte’s sixth-place finish at Lincoln-Way, she finished seventh all-around at Homewood-Flossmoor including a seventh-place finish in the vault.
Sophomore Shelby Wiktor took 13th at Lincoln-Way and was 17th all-around at H-F.
Freshman Mallory Winter was 28th at the Lincoln-Way meet and 18th at H-F.
Freshman Jalyn Hobbs claimed 24th at Lincoln-Way.
The T-bolts were hoping for big things from sophomore Emily Roden but illness and injuries have kept her from competing. Coach Alison Hack can’t predict if she will return this season.
Freshman Maddie Puckett has been a nice addition to the team — she was 27th at Lincoln-Way. She also took 19th all-around at H-F. Sophomore Emily Berkheimer took 29th at Lincoln-Way.
Sophomore Angel Duncan took 25th at Lincoln-Way and finished 22nd all-around in the H-F invite.
Freshman Kiara Hill is another Viking to watch. She didn’t compete at Lincoln-Way but finished 21st all-around at the H-F meet.
Coach Mike White is hoping sophomore Anna Girlich can snap back from the flu. She missed the Lincoln-Way meet because of that and he said she lost 10 pounds. If healthy, Girlich has a legitimate shot at qualifying for state.
Last year, Girlich qualified for the state meet in vault as a freshman and finished 37th. She finished 10th at Homewood-Flossmoor.
Sophomore Katie Crabbe finished 30th at Lincoln-Way.
The Astros do not have a team but freshman Skylor Hilger, who had been away from the sport for three years, competed individually in three meets in December had a fourth-place all-around at the Lyons Invitational, a sixth-place all-around finish at Homewood-Flossmoor and a fifth-place finish all-around at Oswego.