Gymnastics: Lincoln-Way co-op enters new era
By Jeff Vorva For Sun-Times Media February 24, 2013 8:24PM
New coach Jay Johnson Jr. gives instruction to sophomore Jackson Callahan during a recent Lincoln-Way co-op practice in Frankfort. | Jeff Vorva~For Sun-Times Media
Andrew co-op: Scott Rigg, Sr.; Kevin Ferrentino, Soph.; Omar Ashour, Soph.
Homewood-Flossmoor: Akeem Bey-Muhammad, Jr.; Lerone Weathersby, Sr.
Lincoln-Way co-op: Bret Arias, Sr.; Brent Schneider, Sr.; Bryan Kowalkowski, Sr.
Getting started: Lincoln-Way opens the season Tuesday night at a triangular at Hinsdale South. Andrew gets rolling Friday at the Hinsdale Central Invitational. Homewood-Flossmoor opens the campaign hosting its own invitational on March 8.
Meets to watch: All three SWSC teams will see one another and some other squads in the Homewood-Flossmoor Invitational on March 8. Lincoln-Way and Homewood-Flossmoor are in an invitational hosted April 13 by defending state champion Wheaton Warrenville South. The SWSC meet will be contested April 25 at Lincoln-Way East.
State meet info: The IHSA state meet will be held May 10 and 11 at Lincoln-Way East.
Last year’s state champion: Wheaton Warrenville South.
Last area state champion: Lincoln-Way co-op in 2011.
Last area individual state champion: Lincoln-Way Coop’s Ajani Cargle had an unprecedented feat when he won all six state events in 2012.
Last season’s SouthWest Suburban Conference Champion: Lincoln-Way co-op, which has won all seven SWSC titles.
Updated: March 26, 2013 6:08AM
This isn’t just having the torch passed to them.
This is like a meteor speeding at them at 500 mph.
In the past eight years, Lincoln-Way co-op had a better state run than any other Southland boys athletic team, with two state titles and five second-place finishes.
The talented Lincoln-Way senior class of 2012 is gone — including Ajani Cargle, who became the first gymnast in state history to win state titles in all six events in one season.
To jumble things even more, the team received a jolt with the recent firing of coach Skip Adamson, an Illinois Gymnastics Coaches Hall of Famer, for undisclosed reasons.
Lincoln-Way is heading into the 2013 season with plenty of changes and plenty of challenges ahead.
The new coach is Jay Johnson Jr., a former assistant for boys and girls gymnastics returning to the sport after a two-year absence. He was a Lincoln-Way gymnast in the 1980s.
“I coached with Skip quite a few years and I know how this team works and that’s an asset for me,” Johnson said. “The boys have been tremendously supportive. That’s the key. They all came in with a great attitude, and we’ll take it from there.
“I’ve been asked to do a job and I’m going to do the best I can and let the kids perform to the best of their abilities.”
The new coach will rely on seniors Bret Arias, Brent Schneider and Bryan Kowalkowski to help ease through this transition. All three were state qualifiers in 2012.
They’re ready for the challenge.
“We have a bit of a standard to uphold,” Schneider said.
“We’re up for this,” Arias added. “We’ll work hard. Our goal is try to go to state and take first or at least second. We need to keep motivating everybody and to keep at it.”
Since the state meet has been held at Lincoln-Way East the past four years, the team has had a nice home-floor advantage. Still, it’s a state meet, which brings its share of anxiety.
“There was a lot of pressure and it was definitely nerve-racking,” Kowalkowski said. “But we had a big crowd and a lot of fun.”
Johnson will rely on the three seniors for leadership during the transition.
“They obviously have great experience from last year and I think that can be nothing but positive for the rest of the team,” Johnson said.
Saed Abughoush, Luka Bandera, Colin Bourke, Chad Hosman, Aaron Riha and Caleb Simpson are seniors on the roster who hope to shine this year. Anthony Balsamo, Justin Hosey, Brian Krohn and Jimmy Maines are juniors hoping to make their mark.
There are 26 freshmen and sophomores out for the program as well, and sophomore Tyler Greenberg could make an impact on the varsity.