SYCAMORE – Barely a point and a half separated the DeKalb-Sycamore girls gymnastics team from a state title last season.
Having lost just one athlete off that team, coach Andy Morreale said he thinks the Barbs can make the leap, or at least compete with defending champ Prairie Ridge.
"There's only one more spot up to go," Morreale said. "We only lost one athlete from last year and we've gained four new ones. We should be stronger than we were last year."
The season gets underway Friday when the Barbs host a meet at DeKalb High School. It will include Prairie Ridge.
"We got a young team and I think they're starting to pull it together," Morreale said. "I'm really looking forward to this weekend to see where we're at."
The Barbs return two gymnasts who finished in the top 10 in the all-around last year – senior Aleah Leman and sophomore Madison Hickey. Leman was third in the all-around, won the floor exercise, was second on the beam and third in the vault. Hickey was seventh in the all-around, tied for third on the bars and fifth in the floor.
Morreale said those two expect to be improved heading into the season and thinks a strong crop of newcomers could make the difference this year.
Sophomore Sam Keating and freshman Sam Perri should have an impact on the team, Morreale said.
"We're as good, if not better, than Prairie Ridge with our first two or three kids," Morreale said. "It's those third, fourth, fifth kids – that's where we're going to be better this year. We're stronger at those numbers in the lineup."
Leman said her focus this year is on how the team does more than an individual performance.
"I'd like to take the state title in all-around, obviously," Leman said. "But to be honest, I'm not focused on individual this year. I want to really work with the team and make sure the team gets to where we want to be. (However), that would be my No. 1 (individual) goal – to take the state all-around title."
A poor performance on the bars last year kept Leman out of contention for the all-around title – "a couple of bobbles," Morreale said – and she said she's using that as a learning tool for this year.
"I'm taking that as a little bit of fuel," Leman said. "I know things like that can happen, but I want to make sure I'm geared up and ready to go for state so things like that don't happen this year."