Girls gymnastics: Vernon Hills takes title at Glenbard West

 
By Chris Walker
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 12/3/2022 6:27 PM

Vernon Hills junior Annika Chudy impressed during Saturday's Glenbard West Hilltopper Invitational, but first she was inspired by one of the many outstanding gymnasts to ever compete at Glenbard West.

Chudy, who won three events along with the all-around to lead Vernon Hills to the title, acknowledged that it was "really cool" to hear Wendy Toyama address the gymnasts, coaches and fans before the meet got rolling. Vernon Hills won convincingly with 144.8 points. Glenbard West slipped past Downers Grove co-op, 140.85 to 140.45 to earn runner-up honors.

 

Toyama shared her experience as a high school gymnast, hammering home how big of an impact it has had in her life while also explaining that opportunities for girls to play high school sports weren't always available. Title IX has changed that.

"It was empowering to know that there were all these women who have come before us to lead up to us getting this opportunity," she said. "That was really cool to bring out (Toyama), the first person to ever qualify for state (from Glenbard West)."

Vernon Hills had the top team scores on vault (37.1), floor (36.5) and beam (36). The host Hilltoppers only edged Vernon Hills, 35.3 to 35.2 for top team score on bars.

"We weren't nervous, but we were anxious coming in because we knew a lot of good teams were here," Chudy said. "I'm just so proud of the whole team. I think we really pulled it together. We were a little shaky on some things, but I'm really glad we kept such a positive environment throughout the meet. They kept me in such a positive mood and I really couldn't do it without them. They are like my everything."

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Chudy (38.0) edged teammate Livy Tran (37.25) for all-around honors while Becca Tran (35.8) added to the Cougars' team total in all four events.

Glenbard West coach Carlos Fuentes, who is in year No. 23 at the Glen Ellyn school with a pair of state titles and nine appearances at state, has another talented group of hardworking kids with their eyes set on getting to state again.

"We don't waste any time making excuses about who graduated or who didn't come out or what injuries you have, we just keep working and plugging away," he said. "It's a tradition of excellence and they want to keep that going. And it takes all different kinds of teams. Sometimes it's depth of 10-12 girls and right now we're looking at five all-arounders, but they want to be the team that continues the success year after year."

Skylar Hopper (36.4), Skylar Oh (35.5) and Grace Flint (34.75) led the Hilltoppers in all-around scoring. Hopper was sixth overall and Oh was eighth while Hopper took second on floor and Oh was second on bars. Flint tied for fourth place on bars and beam.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I thought my bars and beam we pretty good, but I thought I could've done better on bars," Flint said. "I feel like our expectations are pretty high since we went to state last year and I feel like things are going well so far this early in the season."

Sharing in the experience of such a momentous celebration for the program was something Flint won't soon forget either.

"It was really cool to be a part of the 50 years and I just love being a part of this team," she said. "It's a lot more fun than other teams I've been on. We all get to work together and try to get new high scores."

Downers Grove co-op sophomore Genevieve Herion shined in her high school debut, taking third in the all-around (36.7) to lead the Trostangs to third place. She also tied for third on vault and for fifth on floor.

"I'm really happy with my scores, especially this early on in the season," Herion said. "We're all working to be great later in the season, but this was a really good starting point and I'm really proud with how all of us did today."

Kate Snouffer (35.05), Kaelyn Landry (34.5) and Emily Smetana (33.8) participated in every event while Snouffer tied for first place on beam.

"We're obviously trying to stay positive through these next few meets, but this is a great starting point for us," Snouffer said. "Obviously we can go higher and higher and that's something I'm really looking forward to seeing within the next couple months, especially leading up to the state series. We have so much potential."

As a part of two state-qualifying teams and a sixth-place finish on floor at state last February, Snouffer has been a part of gymnastics history herself, so being able to share in something historical at Glenbard West was another awesome experience.

"I like seeing how gymnastics has evolved and I'm sure it's cool for them to see where we're at now," she said. "Today was a day of honoring ourselves, our sport and all the people who have come before us, and the people in the future, so it was pretty cool."

Carmel (138.65) and Lake Park (137.8) rounded out the top five squads among the 13-team field.

Carmel's Sarah Arenda (35.35) tied for fifth on floor and led the team in the all-around (35.35). Julia Bartnik led the Lancers in the all-around (36.65) and was third om bars, fourth on floor and fifth on beam.

Wheaton co-op's Haylie Hinckley was fifth in the all-around (36.55).

Prairie Ridge co-op's Gabby Riley won vault (9.75) which was her lone event for this competition. Riley was a crucial member of last year's state champion squad with contributions that included tying for first place on floor.

Fremd was eighth (132.05) and Kacey Tokunaga had the team's top finish with sixth place on beam (9.0).

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