Girls gymnastics: Kauffman leads Lake Zurich to Galatte crown
Like many high school gymnasts, Lake Zurich's Rayna Kauffman has been involved with the sport for quite a long time.
For Kauffman, it's been for 14 of her 17 years, so it's obvious that gymnastics is a big part of her young life.
And now, with the invitational season kicking off Saturday at Rolling Meadows, the senior showed how far her skills and dedication have taken her.
Kauffman, with a score of 9.30, took second place in the floor exercise at the Mustangs' Al Galatte Holiday Invitational.
Most importantly, her sparkling performance helped lead the Bears to the overall team win.
Lake Zurich won the title with a mark of 69.450. Carmel took second by posting a 67.525, Stevenson was third at 67.100, while host Meadows (66.975) finished fourth.
"After last year (the pandemic shortened-campaign), coming out to a meet like this is a huge deal," said Kauffman. "We started out on a great step and I can't wait for the rest of the season."
Kaufman added that she considers the floor exercise her best event.
"I love performing and showing what I can do," she said, " and I like to dance and floor lets me do that."
Another floor exercise superstar, Ally Gitler of Stevenson, won the the event just edging out Kauffman with a 9.35.
"I really started to enjoy it (the floor exercise) a lot more in my sophomore year," said Gitler, now a senior, "and that made my tumbling even better. I've found that in this event if you're able to smile and have fun, it's a lot easier to go out there and present yourself.
"We didn't have any invites last season, so I'm honestly so happy as a senior just to come back and compete. We had fun, and that's what invitationals are all about."
Brooklyn Hextall (9.20) of host Rolling Meadows won the uneven parallel bars, while Julia Cunniff from Prospect finished in second place in the balance beam with a score of 9.05.
As is the case with many competitors, Cunniff is pumped up to return with high hopes of a full season including a state series.
"As a team we're just so excited to be getting back into the gym," said Cunniff. "I'm happy that I hit and that we all did well."
A strong showing in the uneven parallel bars from Carmel's Nina Kropiwiec (third, 9.00) helped pace the Corsairs to their runner-up placement.
Carmel is still without senior Clare Keane, a state champ on the bars in 2020, who missed all of last year with a hip injury.
Keane will be out a few weeks this season as she deals with a torn ligament in her foot, but still finds ways to contribute.
"I love being able to take on a leadership role, and help coach a little bit," said Keane. "The girls were pretty well prepared today, and overall, they did a really good job. I have high hopes for this year."
Olivia Tangorra from Buffalo Grove was second in the bars at 9.10 while teammate Mackenzie Matsuda (8.85) was fourth in the balance beam.
Melina Moreno (9.20) of Meadows was third in the floor exercise, while CiCi Stennett of Barrington took second in the vault with a 9.10.
Angela Burk of Lake Zurich was fourth in the bars at 4.90 while Ashley Knipple of Prospect placed fourth in the vault at 8.85.
Stevenson's Lauren Jackson and Ashley Schabes finished fifth in the parallel bars and the balance beam respectively to give a big assist to the success of the Patriots.
"For some of the girls, this was their first time at a varsity meet," said Stevenson coach Judy Harwood, "but ultimately it was really fun. It was exciting, a little nerve-wracking, and to take third place is a tremendous accomplishment for us.
"Being the first invitational of the season, we didn't really know what to expect."