Knowing how to focus on the task at hand and motivate your teammates when they need it is as much a part of the Lake Forest High School gymnastics team’s success as the artistic performance on the uneven parallel bars, balance beam, vault and floor exercise.
The Scouts’ second-place finish in Friday's North Suburban Conference meet at Vernon Hills was not their best outing of the season. Stevenson won the affair with 149.5 points followed by Lake Forest with 146.925 and Libertyville with 143.325. Still, they remain poised for a strong finish at the State meet next month.
“We’re definitely one of the top five teams in the state and all top five finishers could come from here (Lake County),” said Lake Forest coach Robin Straus, referring to defending state champion Carmel and Stevenson.
“It was one of our goals (winning the league championship),” addedStraus. “We needed to win tonight to tie Stevenson (for the league championship)."
Earlier in the season, the Patriots edged Lake Forest, 147.85-146.75, in a dual meet. A Scout win at the conference tournament would have tied the teams for the league title. Lake Forest came out of the conference meet knowing it can recover from slips on the apparatus to score good performances in the next event thanks to a strong team attitude built by Straus.
“You just stay focused so you can help your team,” said Kat McKeon, who enjoyed one of her strongest outings of the season by taking third place in the all around competition with 37.25 points for the four events. “We are a big happy family.”
That family attitude was what propelled the Scouts to a stellar finish in their final event, the vault, and secured second place after Kylie Carlson fell during floor exercise on her way to a top score and could not finish the event. She still hit a 9.1.
“We make sure they (our teammates) know we’re there for them,” said Grace Kohlmaier, who helped lead her team’s rally on the final event — the vault — with a 9.5 for third. “We’ve done this (the routine) a jillion times.”
Individually the Scouts prepare mentally for each event with their own thoughts and let their athletic ability take over when it comes time to do things like double flips on a 4-inch wide balance beam.
“I get myself ready with good thoughts telling myself ‘you can do this’ since I’ve done it a million times before,” said Brittany Moccia, who grabbed second in the vault with 9.55 and fourth in floor exercises with 9.35. “Then I let my body do it for me (on the apparatus).”
Moccia understands every fraction of a point she tallies adds to a team score where the outcome of a meet can be determined by a tenth, hundredth or even a thousandth of a point.
“I keep telling myself I can do it for the team and to keep my composure,” said Moccia. “We all want to do our best for the team. We can’t give up.”
Straus was concerned about Carlson competing in the final event after her fall in the floor exercise. The Scout sophomore, who finished second on floor in the state meet a year ago and seventh in the all-around, would have none of it.
“I wanted to do all my vaults,” said Carlson. “I kept telling myself I could do it. I had to do it for the team.”
Her 9.425 made a contribution to a team score of 37.925. If the Scouts score that well in all four events, they would total 151.7 points - not only a team record but state championship caliber.
The road to the Feb. 19 State finals begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 2) when Lake Forest hosts Highland Park, Deerfield and Barrington in regional competition.