In 2016, Oak Park and River Forest senior Alyona Jochaniewicz overcame a late-season concussion and sprained finger to qualify for her first girls gymnastics state meet as an all-arounder.
When an injured right knee hampered her chances entering the DeKalb Regional Jan. 30, Jochaniewicz remained determined to reach the Glenbard North Sectional Feb. 8 and eventually state, even if limited to uneven parallel bars and perhaps balance beam.
Then came warmups.
“I was on bars and did a flyaway (dismount) and my knee decides to just give out,” Jochaniewicz said. “I knew that I was out.”
At sectionals, the injured Jochaniewicz supported her teammates as seniors Natalie Weeks and Camille Moore and sophomores Grace Luptak, Sophia Preys and Zion Phillpotts competed as individual qualifiers.
None advanced to state. Coming closest were Luptak (8.75) and Weeks (8.725) on uneven bars to the 9.075 at-large state cut.
Still undecided about college gymnastics, Jochaniewicz was scheduled for magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) Friday.
“It’s definitely a bummer. I’m very upset it didn’t happen for state,” Jochaniewicz said.
“I’m happy to experience state once. I think everyone should experience state. I’m just proud of myself that I made it there. It (stinks) that I didn’t do it this year, but I have a bright future. I’m not really worried about state. I have bigger things in my life.”
Jochaniewicz initially was injured practicing after three top-five finishes at the Jan. 28 conference meet, including 9.25 on floor. The at-large state cut was 9.075.
“It has to be heartbreaking as a senior. (State is) your goal and you’ve been looking so good,” OPRF coach Kris Wright said. “That’s really hard, but hopefully she’ll do (gymnastics) in college and she’ll have other moments.”
The postseason Huskies combined seniors and promising underclassmen. Luptak, Weeks and Preys reached sectionals as all-arounders. Luptak also qualified on vault, uneven bars and floor, Weeks also qualified on vault and uneven bars and Moore and Phillpotts qualified on vault.
Because of a pre-season ankle injury, Luptak never vaulted until regionals. There she took fourth (9.15) and fourth in all-around (34.85) with Weeks fifth (34.275).
Pushing the ankle likely contributed to Luptak being disappointed with sectional scores of 8.4 and 33.70.
“I have two years ahead of me. Hopefully those (sectionals) are going to go better,” Luptak said. “I’m going to work really hard this summer, really push to try to go (to state) next year.”
“If she just keeps it up, she’ll be good,” Jochaniewicz added. “I see a bright future for her and I’m really proud of what she’s been doing.”
For Preys, this was her first season of high school gymnastics.
“It was a lot different than USAG (club gymnastics),” Preys said. “I feel like I made progress. I learned some new skills that I didn’t even know existed. I feel really motivated to learn a bunch of new stuff.”
Even minus Jochaniewicz at regionals, the Huskies scored 134.825 at regionals, their third highest score this season. Also in the lineup were freshmen Jenna Schainis and Nicole Perla and sophomore Claire Massmann.
“Because they knew (Jochaniewicz) wasn’t going to be there, everybody stepped it up. I think it was our best team effort to come together and to be supportive of her and of each other,” Wright said.