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Gymnastics team trying to avoid another near-miss

DeKALB – DeKalb-Sycamore gymnastics coach Andy Morreale knew the pressure was mounting on his gymnasts as they fell, one after another, on the balance beam in last year’s Glenbard North Sectional, but he tried to keep thoughts of imminent failure out of his head.

The Barbs were close to securing an at-large berth in the state meet, but the balance beam stood in their way. Every DeKalb-Sycamore gymnast slipped off of the beam, which cost the Barbs two points. They missed qualifying for the state meet by a half point.

“It was one of those things, where if one of those kids falls, it’s kind of a snowball effect,” Morreale said. “If you miss, you’re not just hurting yourself, you’re hurting the whole team, and I think that adds a lot of extra pressure.”

This year, Morreale is trying to make sure his team doesn’t make the same mistakes when the Barbs head to the Glenbard West Sectional, which begins at 6:30 p.m. today.

Morreale is trying to make sure his athletes are pressure-tested, setting up drills in which every athlete gathers around one gymnast.

He also is making sure his gymnasts focus inward, instructing them to turn their backs when teammates are performing on the beam.

“We did some things to try to change their mindset,” Morreale said. “At the same time, it’s an individual sport up there. It’s just you and the equipment, and individually, you’ve got to get it done.”

The Barbs think they have a strong chance of qualifying for the state meet this year, even after losing last year’s state champion in the all-around, Alyssa Lopez, to graduation.

Morreale hopes improvement from within will be enough to put DeKalb-Sycamore over the top. Freshman Alison Morreale, who finished third in the all-around in the Glenbard North Regional, has improved immensely from last season after hurting her ankle and back last year.

“I’m able to work on my events longer and bump up my assignments to more skills,” she said. “I’ve improved a lot. I’ve been working on different skills, working in the gym longer.”

Anita Bell hopes to qualify in the all-around this year after making it to the state meet in the vault and the floor exercise last year. The senior finished second in the all-around in the Glenbard North Regional, which the Barbs won.

DeKalb-Sycamore’s 142.275 points in the Wheaton-Warrenville South Regional was the 10th-highest total of any regional. The four sectional winners, and four additional at-large teams will qualify for the state meet. Morreale said fixing a few minor mistakes will make up enough points to put them through.

As the Barbs saw last season, a state berth is no sure thing.

But Bell sees a different mentality from her team last year that will keep the Barbs from making the same mistakes. This year, she sees a more focused, confident group that won’t let small failures obstruct the bigger picture.

“Everyone’s pushing really hard, and you can see it on their face when they don’t place in an even that they really want to place in,” Bell said. “Now, I see the girls are really stepping it up, and we’re trying to [qualify] as a team.”

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