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AROUND TOWN: Crystal Lake Gymnastics sends 3 to nationals

Published: Sunday, April 28, 2013 10:00 p.m. CST

Crystal Lake Gymnastics qualified three gymnasts for the May 3 to 5 Level 9 Eastern National Championships in Battle Creek, Mich.

Riley Mahoney, Aubrie Purtell and Savanna Mensching all qualified at the Region 5 Championships from April 12 to 14 in Dimondale, Mich.

Mahoney, a sophomore at Cary-Grove, won the balance beam with a score of 9.425 in the Senior 5 Division and was second in the All Around (37.250). She was also third in the vault (9.450), and seventh in the uneven bars (9.10) and floor exercise (9.275). It will be her first trip to nationals.

While her best event may be beam, Crystal Lake Gymnastics coach Lee Battaglia said Mahoney does not really have a weak event which makes her so strong in the All Around.

Mahoney nearly moved up to Level 10 this year but Battaglia felt she needed another year at Level 9, particularly on the mental side. This past summer, Mahoney began learning some advanced Level 10 moves. Battaglia said she picked up in two months what many gymnasts take more than a year to master.

That’s when Battaglia noticed Mahoney was having balking issues with some of those moves. Balking is a fear of doing certain moves and comes from learning too quickly, Battaglia said.

“As [Mahoney] went on with the training there were little fears that came in,” Battaglia said. “That was my deciding factor. As it turns out, it was right.”

Mahoney continues to work on those moves and even includes some in her floor routine even though they don’t benefit her score. Mahoney is looking ahead to next year when she will make the move to Level 10.  

“[Mahoney’s] so prepared for Level 10,” Battaglia said. “She’s going to have a really easy transition next year.”

Qualifying for the Eastern Championships also will give her confidence for the move up.

“When you go to level 10, there’s another part you have to take and that’s’ the mental part,” Battaglia said. “You have a lot of kids who are ready to do it physically, but not mentally.”

Mensching placed seventh in the All Around (35.750) at regionals in the Senior 8 Division. While the top six advance to nationals, Mensching made it when another girl backed out.

Mensching, a senior at Crystal Lake Central, is battling a back injury and nearly didn’t make it to regionals. Also at regionals she placed fifth in the uneven bars (8.825) and balance beam (8.775) and was seventh in the floor exercise (9.20).

“[Mensching] basically looked at this as her last meet,” Battaglia said of regionals. “She was looking forward to being done. Now she’s had to train another three weeks for nationals.”

Purtell, a junior at Huntley, was fifth in the All Around (36.450) in the Senior 7 Division. She placed second in the vault (9.50), sixth in the uneven bars (9.125) and eighth in the floor exercise (9.275).

Purtell began training with Crystal Lake Gymnastics last year and told Battaglia that she wasn’t going to do beam after getting injured on the event.  

Battaglia said beam is a very difficult event to do mentally because you are competing on a four inch wide surface. Despite her initial objection, the staff began reintroducing the balance beam to her. Purtell’s confidence built to the point of competing again on beam.

“[Purtell] was first very tentative because that’s where she broke her foot. We had to go very, very slow with her,” Battaglia said. “Aubrie achieved a milestone. She reached beyond her goals.”

• Rob Smith is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at rsmith@shawmedia.com.

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