Lyons Township High School senior Ryan Johnson has adapted quickly to his first season of boys gymnastics since eighth grade, but his hands sure haven’t.
“I think I’ve ripped [them open] at least once every week since the season started. It’s been a lot to work through,” Johnson said. “They’ll heal and then they’ll rip. I get maybe one good day of high bar a week at practice. I’m probably 80 pounds heavier now than when I used to do gymnastics. My hands got soft.”
Johnson has one more week with athletic tape in addition to grips for protection. On May 3, he helped the host Lions win the IHSA sectional meet with 145.50 points and automatically advance to the eight-team state meet for the sixth straight time.
Johnson (8.6 on high bar) joined juniors Will Taylor (49.70 in all-around) and Roman Hanyuk (8.45 on pommel horse) qualified as individual sectional champions. Junior Ryan Evans, sophomore Devon Mackenzie and freshmen T.J. Carr and Ryan Renderman also earned individual state berths with top-five event finishes.
“High bar felt really good,” said Johnson, also an advancing third on vault (8.7). “Honestly, I had no clue about where we’d go as a team, where we’d be (this season). I thought it was a cool opportunity to come back, do a sport that I used to love, still kind of rekindle that. I’m glad I came back.”
The Lions very well could end up with another top-three state trophy for the third straight season, perhaps even their second state title in the last three years.
They had the fifth-highest sectional score but were minus junior all-around Matt Adler, who will compete at the USA Gymnastics club nationals but return for the state meet team competition on May 13 at Hoffman Estates.
LTHS coach Sam Zeman said Adler’s return should add about another 11 points, putting the Lions in contention with title favorite Lake Park (161.60 at sectionals), Stevenson (152.45) and Hersey (151.45).
With Adler’s winning 55.30 all-around April 28, the Lions scored a season-high 154.55 in winning the West Suburban Conference Silver meet. They also scored in the 154s their previous two meets.
“We have a lot of improvements. The guys know it,” Zeman said. “Their focus is much more clear now as to what we need to do [for state]. Today was an eye opener.”
Taylor fell just shy of breaking 50.00 in all-around. He still won by two points. He also was second on parallel bars (8.55), pommel horse (8.3) and still rings (8.2), was fifth on high bar (7.8), tied for fifth on floor exercise (8.4) and advanced at-large on vault (7th, 8.45).
“I just would have liked to improve a little bit,” Taylor said. “I think that if we try hard enough, we can get [first], but Lake Park has a really solid team. It’ll be tough, though.”
Hanyuk continues to rapidly improve after rejoining the program in mid-season and making his competitive debut April 15 at Wheaton Warrenville South.
Hanyuk was part of the Lions’ 1-2-3 finish on horse with Taylor and Carr (7.1) and second (8.45) to Johnson on high bar.
“It’s actually cool, really cool,” Hanyuk said. “I had the whole team convincing me, a lot of my family members, saying just one more year. It would be really nice if you joined in. I’m just really proud to be a part of this team and winning all of these titles.”
Evans tied for third on rings (7.85), Mackenzie was fourth on floor (8.7) and Renderman was fifth on parallel bars (7.5).
Mackenzie was just .10 from his high score. He’s coming off state in his first season with the Lions’ competitive cheerleading team.
“I’m kind of more excited than nervous. I’m just hoping I do great,” Mackenzie said. “I definitely was very nervous [for sectionals]. I was very nervous about throwing [my whip layout] but I did it perfectly.”