May 18, 2022

Kauffman leads Lake Zurich to Galatte’s crown

Like many high school gymnasts, Rayna Kauffman of Lake Zurich has been practicing the sport for quite a long time.

For Kauffman it’s been 14 of his 17 years, so it’s obvious gymnastics is a big part of his young life.

And now, with the invitational season kicking off on Saturday at Rolling Meadows, the senior has shown how far her skill and dedication has taken her.

Kauffman, with a score of 9.30, took second place in the floor exercise at the Al Galatte Holiday Invitational of the Mustangs.

More importantly, his sparkling performance helped the Bears secure the overall tag team victory.

Lake Zurich won the title with a score of 69.450. Carmel was second posting a 67.525, Stevenson was third at 67.100, while host Meadows (66.975) was fourth.

“After last year (the pandemic campaign shortened), being in a meeting like this is a huge deal,” Kauffman said. “We started off on a big step and I can’t wait for the rest of the season.”

Kaufman added that she considers the floor exercise to be her best event.

“I love to play and show what I can do,” she said, “and I love to dance and the floor allows me to do that.”

Another floor exercise superstar, Stevenson’s Ally Gitler, won the event narrowly edging Kauffman with a 9.35.

“I really started to enjoy it a lot more (the floor exercise) in my sophomore year,” said Gitler, now a senior, “and it made my tumbling even better. I found that in this event if you are able to smile and have fun, it is much easier to go out and introduce yourself.

“We didn’t have any invites last season so I’m honestly so happy as a senior to come back and compete. We had fun, and that’s what the invites are.

Host Rolling Meadows’ Brooklyn Hextall (9.20) won the uneven parallel bars, while Prospect’s Julia Cunniff finished second on beam with a score of 9.05.

As is the case with many contestants, Cunniff is motivated to return with high hopes of a full season including a State Series.

“As a team we’re so excited to be going back to the gym,” Cunniff said. “I’m glad I touched and that we all did well.”

A strong performance on uneven parallel bars from Carmel’s Nina Kropiwiec (third, 9.00) helped the Corsairs to place second.

Carmel is still without senior Clare Keane, the 2020 State Bars Champion, who missed all of last year with a hip injury.

Keane will be out for a few weeks this season as she faces a torn ligament in her foot, but is still finding ways to contribute.

“I like being able to take a leadership role and help out with coaching a little bit,” Keane said. “The girls were pretty well prepared today, and overall they did a really good job. I have high hopes for this year.”

Olivia Tangorra of Buffalo Grove was second on bars at 9.10 while teammate Mackenzie Matsuda (8.85) was fourth on beam.

Melina Moreno (9.20) of Meadows was third in floor practice, while CiCi Stennett of Barrington was second in vault at 9.10.

Angela Burk of Lake Zurich was fourth on bars at 4.90 while Ashley Knipple of Prospect was fourth on vault at 8.85.

Stevenson’s Lauren Jackson and Ashley Schabes were fifth on parallel bars and beam respectively to help the Patriots’ success.

“For some girls it was their first time in a college competition,” said Stevenson coach Judy Harwood, “but it was really fun in the end. It was exciting, a little scary, and taking third place is a tremendous achievement for us.

“Being the first invite of the season, we didn’t really know what to expect. “

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