The greatest era in Lake Forest High School gymnastics will come to a close today and Saturday on the grandest stage in Illinois sports, the State Meet in Palatine.
As the Scouts make their fourth straight appearance in the State Finals, seniors Kylie Carlson, Kat McKeon and Carly Schmidt will be ending their gymnastics careers under the tutelage of Coach Robin Straus, who will retire after 35 years at the helm.
“No one has even done that before,” Carlson said referring to the fourth straight trip to State. “The best before that was two years (in a row).” Carlson should know. One of the stars of the Straus led 1985 team which made its second straight appearance that year was Julie Nei, now Julie Nei Carlson, Kylie’s mother.
In that span, Lake Forest finished fifth last year, second the year before and eighth in 2010. Carlson was part of all four teams, McKeon three and Schmidt two. The three seniors are joined by Brittany Moccia, Laura Blake and Tabby Jeffers.
Carlson and McKeon are also competing as individuals. Carlson qualified in all five events—all around, balance beam, floor exercise, uneven parallel bars and vault—while McKeon will take part in all around, beam and bars.
The top 10 finishers in Friday’s preliminary round at 5 p.m. advance to Saturday’s finals at 5:45 p.m. The all around and team competition are Friday but should Carlson and McKeon advance to the championship round a better score Saturday is added to the Scouts team standing.
No one is making any predictions about how the Scouts will finish this year but Straus has the athletes primed for their best possible performance both as individuals and as a team. She has to determine the lineup.
“It’s like a puzzle,” Straus said. “They’re all very essential pieces. They really want it and that makes a huge difference.”
Schmidt has a simple formula to propel her team to the best possible finish. “We have to hit 20 of 20 routines,” she said. It may not be that simple but the Scouts are highly motivated to make the good bye for them and Straus memorable. They all credit each other.
“At sectional we made it because of everybody’s input,” McKeon said. “This is what really got us to State,” she added referring to the extra tenths and hundredths of points each gymnast produced to make a difference.
McKeon and Carlson are no strangers to the victory podium as individuals. Carlson was seventh in the all around competition last year and in 2010. She was second on floor all three years and added a fifth on bars a year ago. McKeon was eighth on bars last season.
No one is making any forecast about how well Carlson will do this year, but she compiled the fourth best all around score in the state’s four Sectional Meets. She has put a number of nagging injuries this year behind her and her work ethic has not lagged.
“For four years she has been the first one in the gym and the last one out,” Straus said. “She knows what to do and how to make adjustments too. She is poised and ready.”
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