Badminton duo earns sixth at state

Central badminton team also sixth, while two gymnasts earn top-10 finishes

The Hinsdale Central varsity girls badminton team finished a great season with a strong showing at state. Senior doubles players Rachele Cameli and Maria Jiao came in sixth, and the team placed sixth as well.

"We had one of the best seasons that we've had overall in a while," head coach Katie Maley said. "This was probably the best team overall I've had in the last four or five years."

Cameli and Jiao started out strong, winning their first three matches. Their first loss in the quarterfinals was to a team they had beaten during the regular season.

"This time I think they were really trying to beat us," Jiao said. "I'm really proud of how we played, though. We did fight back really hard. We didn't give up."

After losing the first game 17-21, Central won the second 24-22 and came close in the third, losing 18-21.

"We've been playing them since last year, the exact same team," Cameli noted. "It could always go either way, I feel like."

Cameli and Jiao bounced back to win the consolation quarterfinals and semifinals. The semifinal match went to three games, with the second game going to 29 points.

"That was really crazy because of the second game," Cameli said. "We wanted to make sure we didn't lose. We just really locked in for the third game and made sure we pulled out the win. It was a crazy game."

The duo lost to Stevenson in the fifth-place match to finish sixth, the same as they did last year.

"We didn't really have much expectations," Cameli said. "We wanted to make sure we didn't underestimate any opponent we were facing. We went in trying to have fun and do our best and hopefully beating the teams that we played."

The No. 2 doubles team of juniors Hannah Fang and Tiffany Tu also had a similar performance to last year, again earning a top-12 finish. They won four of their six matches, losing in the consolation quarterfinals to a Glenbard East team.

"Tiffany and Hannah, they were awesome and made it until Saturday," Maley said.

"It was so awesome to have the doubles teams playing on Saturday and Rachele and Maria playing for a medal. It's so exciting as a coach to see your girls make it that far," she added.

Singles players senior Nora Sripraram and junior Kacy Liu had a more challenging tournament, with each losing their first match and the first-round consolation match. Sripraram's first opponent, Sophia Lin from Fremd, ended up placing fourth at state.

"Nora was my No. 2 player all year, so she was ready. She got a tough draw," Maley said.

Liu had not expected to compete at state at the start of the season, but then No. 1 singles player Sara Han tore her ACL the second week of April. Maley praised both singles players for their efforts.

"They had to play up from what they've been playing all year. I was very happy that they stepped up to the plate," she said. "The most important thing was we had a super fun weekend in DeKalb as a team."

Jiao agreed.

"I feel like throughout the whole state tournament our team got so much closer and together. I feel like state, or just tournaments in general, isn't just about whether you win a medal or how well our team played as a whole. Instead it's the camaraderie."

Boys gymnastics

Two senior gymnasts had impressive finishes at the Illinois High School Gymnastics Coaches Association state meet May 11 at Hoffman Estates.

Senior Nikolas Theotikos placed fourth on pommel horse, finishing far better than he had expected.

"Really I was just hoping to not fall," Theotikos said. "I was pretty much hoping to hit my routine. I'd been injured for a month in the season and I came back basically three days before sectionals. I was just trying to make it. I didn't have any expectations of doing so well."

Theotikos said he knew when he finished his routine that he had done well.

"I was really surprised and I was really happy, because I knew it was good. It felt so much better than anything I'd ever done before. You can see on my face in the video disbelief. I was just so happy."

Theotikos said he's known the gymnast who came in third for a while and always believed him to be a far superior competitor.

"I did 1/10 (of a point) worse than him. I'm actually on his level," Theotikos said. "It's a pretty great realization."

Senior Marc Cihlar was seventh on vault, seventh on parallel bars, 11th on horizontal bar and ninth in all around. Cihlar said he was nervous and excited about the final competition of his senior year.

"I thought I did pretty well," he said. "I was surprised that I was able to get ninth in all around."

Cihlar had fallen on the high bar at last year's tournament and did so again this year.

"Since I got so much better on the other events, I was able to come back from the fall," he said.

Cihlar said his final gymnastics meet (his college does not have a club team) was bittersweet.

"It was kind of sad, but at the end of the day, I've been doing gymnastics for a long time, and it's going to be nice taking a little break," he said.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean