Riverside-Brookfield High School gymnast Lacey Smith knew before the Hinsdale Central Sectional began last Wednesday that she had little chance of qualifying for the state meet.
That didn’t prevent the senior from giving it her all in what turned out to be the final meet of her career.
Smith successfully hit three of her four routines and finished 26th out of 31 competitors in the all-around competition with a score of 33.375. That included 7.9 on uneven bars, 8.125 on balance beam, 8.725 on floor exercise and 8.625 on vault.
“It was a lot of fun,” Smith said. “I’m glad I had some of my teammates here to cheer me on.
“My major goal was to have fun. It was most likely my last meet of my whole career so I just wanted to have fun and see what I can do.”
Thanks to a tough regional competition, Smith did not qualify for sectionals on any of the individual events, just missing the cut on three of them. That left just the all-around, where even her four best routines were not going to be enough to get to state.
“It was that close and tight at the regional,” RBHS coach Tom Sisulak said. “We knew it was going to be tight and that’s how it turned out. I just wanted to make sure she got to compete in all four events [tonight] and she did.”
Any hope Smith had of becoming the Bulldogs’ first state qualifier since 2009 evaporated when she fell off balance beam. But she rebounded to finish strong on floor and vault.
Thus ended a gymnastics career that began when Smith was 3. She began competing at age 7 and eventually reached Level 8.
After 10 years and a few injuries as a club gymnast, Smith began competing for the Bulldogs her junior year. She qualified for the sectional in the all-around and three of the four apparatus last winter.
“I was glad [I joined the team],” Smith said. “My sister [Rebecca] did it her senior year right before I did it, so I’m glad that she helped them get up there and then I was able to help keep [the Bulldogs] up there.”
Rebecca Smith reached Level 9 in club gymnastics before switching to high school. Her experience encouraged Lacey to try it.
“It’s a lot different from club,” Smith said. “I did club gymnastics my whole life.
“I had a lot of fun with the teammates [at R-B]. [The best part] was mainly having a surrounding team and seeing them every day in school and going to practice with them.”
With Smith leading the way, the Bulldogs recorded their highest team score in Sisulak’s five-year coaching tenure, 124.2 at the Independent Conference Meet. While they have a long way to go in order to compete for a spot in the sectional and will dearly miss Smith’s skills and leadership, Sisulak is encouraged about the team’s future.
“These ladies are already worried,” Sisulak said. “They keep asking me, ‘Coach, what are we going to do when Lacey’s not here?’ I said you guys got to work harder to make up the difference.
“But she’s been a great inspiration for all these young ladies. A lot of the ladies have never done gymnastics before, so when they see Lacey their eyes open up, their mouth opens up and they say, “Coach, I want to do that.’ Okay, start working.”
Smith is confident the Bulldogs will do just that.