Carling puts Lions back in state hunt
Downers Grove, 12/01/12--Lyons Township's Katie Carling performs on floor exercise. Downers Grove North High School hosted the Mike Williams Big Purple Girls' Gymnastics Invitational Saturday afternoon. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 11, 2013 7:03AM
LAKE FOREST — Katie Carling’s smashing all-around debut Saturday at the Lake Forest Invitational lifts Lyons into legitimate contention for the state girls gymnastics championship.
Lyons, which finished second in the 2010 state meet and sixth last year, proved that it once again will challenge for IHSA honors by beating three-time defending state champion Carmel and finishing second at Lake Forest.
The only team to top Lyons was Prairie Ridge co-op (150.00), which fields just five gymnasts in its lineup. Lyons scored 149.675 points to Carmel’s 145.625, thanks to Carling, a junior from Brookfield. She was Lyons’ third all-arounder to place in the top 10 at Lake Forest.
The meet completed a long journey for Carling, who did not even compete in high school last season and has been limited to specializing after having surgery in May to repair a labrum in her left shoulder that she tore on uneven bars during a club meet.
Carling established career highs on the all-around (37.125, eighth), vault (9.5, eighth) and uneven bars (9.3, seventh). Her other season-high scores are 9.6 on balance beam in a dual meet Dec. 6 against York, and a 9.65 on floor exercise Dec. 12 against Glenbard West.
“It was a great feeling,” Carling said. “I didn’t think I would be back by then and do as well as I did. It felt awesome.”
Her performance gives Lyons at third solid all-arounder, along with defending state uneven bars champion Kelsy Kurfirst and Michelle Cozza.
Cozza and Carling are teammates on Countryside-based Flying High and, per club rules, were not allowed to compete for their high school teams until this season.
Prairie Ridge and Lyons, which both scored season-high team scores at Lake Forest, rank 1-2 in the state, according to State Gymnastics Stats website. Carmel stands fifth.
Both Prairie Ridge and No. 3 Fremd were placed in the Fremd Sectional for the postseason. Lyons competes at Fremd’s seven-team Sopper Invitational at 1 p.m. Saturday in the teams’ second meeting this season. Lyons beat Fremd at Downers North’s Big Purple Invitational Dec. 1.
At Lake Forest, Kurfirst was third on all-around and Cozza placed fourth. Carling’s return puts Lyons in good position on Saturday to capture its fourth invitational following titles at Lyons Dec. 14, DGN Dec. 1 and Hinsdale South Nov. 21.
“I’m happy to be needed as much as I can against good competition,” Carling said. “I think us and Prairie Ridge are up there and it’s going to be a tough battle.”
Since her injury, Carling had been limited to floor and beam. She kept the same bars routine that caused her injury and had no second thoughts about returning to the event.
“I didn’t think about that,” Carling said. “I just wanted to be out there and compete. I was nervous about that.”