Bay and Homestead gymnastics teams rolling into high form

Both turn in best scores at Highlander invite

Homestead’s Tori Puhl competes in a recent meet. She just helped the Highlanders take third in their own invite on Jan. 18. Whitefish Bay was second.

Homestead’s Tori Puhl competes in a recent meet. She just helped the Highlanders take third in their own invite on Jan. 18. Whitefish Bay was second. Photo By Peter Zuzga

Jan. 21, 2014

In a strictly negative sense, "upside" is a terrible word meant for gawky 7-0 basketball centers who can barely walk and chew gum at the same time and will never achieve their so-called "potential."

Looked at in a more positive sense, the term is meant for sports like gymnastics, where teams labor all December and through a good part of January in sweaty, overcrowded practice spaces. They perfect and disguise their skillsets and tricks like caterpillars in their cocoons waiting for the right moment to burst forth like beautiful butterflies.

Consider the Whitefish Bay and Homestead teams to be in their early butterfly stages.

The Blue Dukes broke their school team record not once but twice last week. First in winning a triangular meet on Jan. 16 and then again when they took a narrow second to powerful Arrowhead in the Homestead Invitational on Saturday.

Still, veteran coach Mary Liniewski, she of four WIAA State Division 2 team titles, is crossing her fingers, looking heavenward and hoping all this success isn't just a little too soon as state is still more than a month away.

"All season long we work hard to protect what we need to," she said. "If we want to keep going, we have to stay healthy. We have a lot of girls in off-season sports. And as much as this is all great and we're hitting our benchmarks, all will be naught if we lose an athlete (to injury).

"Still, this (the Highlander) was a great meet."

As for the host Highlanders, who have battled through injuries and suspensions, they took an even larger step up, improving their season-best team score by more than three points in earning third at their own event Saturday.

"I'm encouraged," coach Mike Giles said. "It was a tough meet, but we beat a couple of really good teams and we went from a high score in the 137s to a 141....We really did well. We competed well and the meet went really smoothly. We had a lot of compliments about it."

Bay improved its team-best mark to 145.175 at the invite, as Arrowhead, which has turned in a state-best of 147-plus this season, won the meet with a 145.725 mark. Homestead claimed its spot with a 141.25 while Nicolet was seventh in the 13-school field with 132.8.

Hayes leads the way

As she has been all winter, Bay multisport star but first-year high school gymnast Lily Hayes led the way with a winning effort in the all-around with a 37.725 mark, just 0.1 off her own school record.

En route, she won the floor exercise (9.55), was second on balance beam (9.4) and uneven bars (9.425) and was third on vault (9.35).

Hayes' floor victory led a spectacular team effort for the Blue Dukes as they turned in a meet team-best on the event with a 37.45, as Aly Yurkowitz (9.325), Mary Claire Potter (9.3) and Lucille Anzia (9.275) all finished in the top 10 in what was a very deep event in a very deep meet.

All told, 17 performers scored above nine in floor.

"We just killed it," Liniewski said of floor.

Vault and beam were also very good for the Blue Dukes, as on vault Anzia and Potter both tied for eighth with 9.0 marks while Paris Limberatos turned in an 8.925 while on beam Anzia had a 9.275 and Yurkowitz 9.025.

"And we even took a fall on beam," Liniewski said.

On bars, Yurkowitz was sixth with a 9.0 and in the all-around Yurkowitz (36.15) was seventh and Anzia eighth (35.675).

Liniewski wants to keep moving forward.

"We've established some very high goals," she said. "We want to see if we can maintain this."

Meanwhile, Giles would like to see his defending North Shore/Greater Metro Conference champions use this effort as a launching point.

Beam, floor good for hosts

Beam (36.75) and floor (36.3) were the high points for the Highlanders this day.

On floor Brittany Emond led the way with a third (9.425) while also getting help from Tori Puhl in 10th (9.25), Amanda Hopkins (8.825) and Mackenzie Goebel (8.8). On beam, Emond was third again with a 9.375 as Elyssa Tracy (9.15) and Ellie Trau (9.025) also turned in good efforts.

Vault was a solid event for Homestead with Monica Caputa taking sixth (9.2), Emond 10th (8.975) and Tori Puhl (8.7).

Giles said that the Highlanders need a lot of work on bars yet, as Emond was fifth (9.2) but no one else on the team scored more than 8.375.

Emond was third in the all-around with a personal-best effort of 36.975.

"We had a good meet on two events. We're not always at our best, but we are getting the team molded together," Giles said. "It's hard, but we're starting to heal and to compete."

Both Bay and Homestead will be at the Arrowhead Invite on Saturday.

Best efforts for Nicolet included Rachel Rabenn on vault (8.6), Ellen Laing on bars (8.475), Hayley Raj (8.9) and Rabenn (8.8) on beam (team-best event at 34.125) and Aleah Ellis on floor (8.8).

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