DeKalb-Sycamore co-op gymnastics coach Andy Morreale knew senior Anita Bell had what it takes to be the best gymnast on uneven bars in the state.
He could see the raw talent and athleticism, even though she didn’t qualify for the state meet in the event last year.
“You have to be strong, flexible, have great endurance,” Morreale said. “She’s a great athlete. She did well in all sports. … Her consistency wasn’t quite on par.”
This year, it all came together for Bell on the bars.
When she heads to Palatine High School for the state meet today, Bell will have one of the top start values in the uneven bars, and Morreale expects her to compete for a state championship.
“I expect her to do really well on bars,” Morreale said of Bell, who also will compete in the floor exercise. “I expect her to be in the finals, and I expect her to make it far.”
Coming off an ACL tear, Bell steadily improved and qualified for the state meet in the vault and the floor exercise last season. While she didn’t make it past the preliminary rounds in either, she was relatively content with her finish.
After sitting out club season to work on improving some of her skills, she came back this year expecting more.
“I think [the improvement] has come from coming back from my knee injury and holding off to compete for club,” Bell said, “instead of just working hard to compete in high school season the next year.”
The senior pushed through injuries to both ankles to take fourth in the all-around in the conference meet and second in the regional. Her goal was to qualify in the all-around at the state meet, but a slip-up on the bars stymied that goal.
The disappointment of her team not qualifying also will linger, no doubt, but as soon as the high school season ends, the club season starts anew.
“Obviously, she wanted to do a little better at sectionals,” Morreale said. “But by the time you’re at the next practice, you’re pretty much refocused. It’s kind of the life of a gymnast, really.”
Bell would love to represent Illinois in the national championships, and the state meet weighs heavily into the selection process.
But first things first, Bell is just looking to make it past today’s preliminaries.
“I would like to go to [nationals], but I don’t know if that’s actually going to happen,” Bell said. “I want to make top five in both events so I qualify on Saturday, and then hopefully get higher up in the rank so I can place individually.”