A corps of veteran gymnasts from a group that placed eighth in last year's State meet will lead Lake Forest High School's girls' gymnastics team.
"We want to win our conference (the North Suburban League)," said coach Robin Straus, noting the Scouts finished just one-tenth of a point behind State champ Stevenson. "We also want to qualify as many athletes as we can for State and earn a top five finish."
The path to those goals began with a 145.54-141.75 victory over Libertyville on Wednesday. "It was the best score we've ever had," Straus added.
Many of the athletes Straus inherits began gymnastics at a very early age. For example, Melanie Foster, a state qualifier in the uneven parallel bars a year ago, started in a parent-tot program at age 2.
Straus's challenge over the past 32 seasons has been molding gymnasts trained for individual achievement at their clubs into a team.
"High school is a team sport, not individual like my club," said Brittany Moccia. "I really enjoy it because this is new to me. We support each other and get along really well as a team. If one of us slips, everyone is here to encourage us."
Moccia, a freshman, may have been getting that message at home as well for awhile. Her mother, Sharon, competed for Straus on the Lake Forest team in 1982 and 1983.
Sophomore Kylie Carlson, who captured second in floor exercise at the 2009 State meet and seventh overall as a freshman, is the other second generation Scout gymnast on the 2010-11 edition. Her mother, Julie, was state champion in the uneven parallel bars in 1985.
"That was our best team ever. We finished third in State," added Straus.
Kylie Carlson's 11th place finishes in vault and uneven bars along with second in floor exercises catapulted her to seventh overall at State.
"We've upgraded all her routines this year. She's gunning for a better season," said Straus referring to Carlson. "She's doing everything she can to be a better gymnast."
Carlson knows she has to raise the bar so to speak in order to improve. "I work building strength, improving my routine and adding difficulty wherever I can," said Carlson.
She has also learned how to maintain composure in the face of imperfection and credits her teammates for helping.
"Every time you're up there it can hit you," said Carlson. "This is why we root for the team. They're clearly in your corner and it makes us better."
Grace Kohlmaier, a senior who has qualified for State the last two years in vault, not only understands the value of a team effort, but knows how to build on her own strengths to help the squad. "I would rather run hard than dance. Everyone has a place where they can shine and show off more," said Kohlmaier.
Katie Meier, who excels on the balance beam and floor, "favors agility over strength. I show off dance, not strength skills," she added.
Katherine McKeon, a sophomore, recognizes strength is her forte as she stands out in floor exercises and firmly grasps high school gymnastics is "More of a team sport, not individual. We focus on the team, not the individual," she said.
Five gymnasts compete in each event with the top four scores going into the team total in a meet. "They all have to do everything and that's what makes this a team sport," added Straus. "They use their strengths to pick everyone up."