Carmel senior Sammi Lococo has dreamed of winning a state championship. She just didn’t believe it could really happen.
She’s a believer now.
Lococo won the floor exercise during Saturday’s girls gymnastics individual state meet at Palatine.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” she said. “I’m just happy that I could do it for myself, my team and my coaches.”
Lococo was one of the final competitors on the floor, following Geneva’s Claire Ginsberg. Lococo tied Ginsberg for the top score during Friday’s preliminaries with a 9.575.
Ginsberg then scored a meet-best 9.55 Saturday before Lococo executed her routine.
“She didn’t watch Ginsberg, who went before her, but we knew her score,” Carmel coach Nicole Stroup said. “She just went out there and did what she could do.
“We talked about how you don’t have to go out there and have a miracle and oversell it. She did exactly the routine she’s been training for her entire career.”
Lococo eclipsed Ginsberg by scoring a 9.6, which barely held up as Prairie Ridge co-op senior Nikki Baars followed with a 9.55. Sandburg/Stagg freshman Maddie Giglio closed the meet with a 9.375.
“When I finally got announced as the winner I finally realized it was actually real,” Lococo said. “All the other kids did so well, but my coaches were like, ‘It’s your best routine ever.’
“So that kind of helped me calm myself down, but in my own head I knew it was going to be close.”
Last year, Lococo took fifth in the state on floor. She placed third as a sophomore. And now, she’s a state champion.
“I just have gotten a lot more confident with it,” she said. “I’ve been working on my landings, upgrading my skills a bit and showing it off and getting it all into my routine.”
She was at her absolute finest during her biggest moment, which also proved to be the final routine of a long career that began before she could walk.
“She’s a super hard worker,” Stroup said. “She’s been dreaming about this moment for the past three years. I’m so proud of her to take home a little championship for herself.”
Lococo was happy to be a state champion, but she shared the credidt with her teammates.
“I couldn’t have done it without my team’s support,” Lococo said. “And I was happy to do this for coach (Stroup). She’s helped me so much in my gymnastics to get better.
“I have a lot of mental blocks and she never gave up on me. I’ve had coaches in the past who have, so I owe a lot to her.”
Lococo also tied for ninth place on bars with a 9.275. The Corsairs remained in fourth place in the team competition, finishing with a 145.15.
Prairie Ridge co-op won its third straight title with a 148.8.
DeKalb/Sycamore co-op’s Aleah Leman won vault with a 9.85 and tied Glenbard West’s Maddie Diab for top honors on bars with a 9.525.
Maine South’s Caleigh Pistorius and New Trier’s Maeve Murdock tied for first on beam with a 9.425.
C.R. Walker is a freelance writer for the News-Sun.
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