Giant improvements the goal for Highland Park gymnasts

HP to combine senior tri-captains with Ablin, young roster

By Bill Stone
December 7, 2011 04:38 PM


COACH: Laura Koehler (7th season)

2010-11 RESULTS: Season-high 116.55 points; fourth at Central Suburban League North Meet (113.425) and tied for fourth in final overall standings; fourth at Lake Forest Regional (109.15)

VARSITY RETURNEES: Seniors Nancy Ceja, Emma Lev and Ilyse Markrack; and junior Kim Major

VARSITY NEWCOMERS: Juniors Kaitlynn Hummel and Dylan Timmeney; and sophomore Emily Ablin

OUTLOOK: The Giants have another young team with tri-captains Lev, Markrack and Ceja among just five seniors. But there’s plenty of enthusiasm among the 26 gymnasts in the program with a boost from first-year team member Ablin, a Level 8 club gymnast.

“I’m looking forward to working with these girls. They’re a great bunch of kids,” Koehler said. “They’re not club gymnasts but they want to work and learn and it’s nice that they have their own motivation. I’m excited, and I’m excited about the future because there’s a lot of young kids pushing themselves.”

In their first two meets, the Giants improved to 108.60 points for fifth at the Wheeling Invite Friday after losing their season opener to Evanston 124.00 to 103.55 Nov. 29.

“I was hoping to beat 100 (against Evanston), which we did. We have a lot of potential to improve, which was nice,” Koehler said. “The girls did OK on floor. We need to continue to work on our (balance) beam. (Uneven parallel bars) is our lowest event. That’s the main event we’re working on right now.”

At last year’s CSL North Meet, Lev (vault, beam) and Markrack (vault, floor) each competed in two events and Ceja competed on beam.  On the junior varsity level, Major and Timmeney were among the Giants’ three all-arounders. Major had the lone top-five team finish, taking fifth on vault.

Highland Park graduated its top gymnast, Allegra Simone, but she missed regionals because of illness and that allowed some younger girls to get additional postseason experience.

Besides Markrack and Lev each competing on their two events, Major volunteered to compete as an all-arounder, her third varsity meet last season that was enough to earn a varsity letter.

Markrack had team-high scores on vault (7.95) and beam (6.925), and Major had counting team scores on all four events. Hummel competed on beam.

Unfortunately, Major fractured her ankle at practice Thursday and is feared lost for the season. The swelling was so bad that Major didn’t receive a cast until this week.

“If she does come back, it’ll be late in the season,” Koehler said.

Ablin has quickly made an impact in her first high-school season. She competed at Level 8 last month for Flips North Shore Gymnastics in Lake Forest.

“Emily definitely helps our team,” Koehler said. “She’s got some experience, but club is definitely different than high school so she’s making those adjustments and to a new team. It’s hard when you’re on a team like Highland Park because we don’t have a lot of club gymnasts.”

At the five-team Wheeling Invite, she had the Giants’ highest scores in all five events. She tied for seventh in all-around (31.90), which included taking sixth on uneven bars (7.6), ninth on floor (8.8), tying for 10th on vault (8.7) and tying for 12th on beam (6.8).

“The first couple of meets have been an eye-opener for (Ablin), especially at Wheeling. There were a lot of talented girls there,” Koehler said. “Now that she’s competed and sees what’s out there, it’s going to make a lot of difference. Hopefully she’ll step things up, stick her beam routines, which she can do. She has great skills and training. Once she gets it together, I’m hoping she makes it to sectionals.”

Koehler also complimented the strong leaps and turns on beam of Lev, who tied for 14th at Wheeling (6.7). Still, the Giants scored at least four points lower on beam (22.30) than the other invite teams and had a team-low 20.80 on uneven bars.

“If we can work our bars, get our kips and flowing routines there, that’s really going to help our team score,” Koehler said. “In a program where we don’t have any club gymnasts, we’re teaching them everything and cleaning everything up. We’re trying to keep those basic skills going.”

In the CSL North, Highland Park pulled out a share of fourth last year by edging Maine West at the conference meet (113.425 to 112.35) after losing their dual meet. The Giants’ first two CSL North duals are at home against the two pre-season title favorites, Glenbrook North (Thursday) and Deerfield (Dec. 13).

“One of my goals is to get about a 115 team score. I think we can reach that,” Koehler said. “I’d like to try and fight for fourth place (in the CSL North) and also try to get Emily Ablin to sectionals and make all-conference also.”