When Lyons Township High School junior Matt Adler qualified for the Level 10 USA Gymnastics club nationals, the news couldn’t have been better.
Nationals were in Oklahoma City, and Adler, competing for Flying High Gymnastics, was in the 8 a.m. session on May 12.
For the first time, the standout all-arounder could rejoin the Lions for the IHSA boys gymnastics state meet team competition on May 13 at Hoffman Estates.
“When we found out nationals were in Oklahoma we were like, ‘We’ll try and make it work,’” Adler said. “Then I saw I was the 8 a.m. session. [I thought], ‘This is perfect. It’ll work out great.’ And I was able to fly back right after.”
Adler was the pivotal key for the Lions this season. As a result, they once again returned to the awards podium.
The Lions finished second with a season-high 156.20 points to earn their third consecutive top-three state trophy in their sixth straight team berth.
Junior Roman Hanyuk earned individual top-five all-state honors with fifth on pommel horse (9.0).
The Lions were third in 2022 and won their first state title in 2021. Lake Park won the team competition with a school-record 162.95 points.
“At the beginning of the season, [LTHS coach Sam Zeman] said he wasn’t really expecting a trophy at all and here we are, second at state,” LTHS junior all-arounder Will Taylor said. “[Lake Park] did a great job, totally deserves it. I’m also very happy with our performance. We probably had our best meet.”
The Lions improved upon their season-best 154.55 that won the West Suburban Conference Silver meet April 30, the last time Adler competed. After the state trophy awards, they formed a human tunnel and congratulated Lake Park gymnasts and coaches passing through.
Adler’s return May 13 followed Hanyuk rejoining the team in mid-season and Ryan Johnson making his high-school gymnastics debut as a senior.
“At our meets, we did exactly what we should have or we moved up. Our kids have always peaked at the right time,” Zeman said. “For Roman to come back and Matt, Ryan, they were amazing, and to fit in with the other guys. It just made the other guys hungry. We knew we were going to be good, and they all wanted to be a part of it.”
This year’s LTHS state lineup used 14 gymnasts – the most Zeman could remember – Adler, Taylor, Hanyuk, Johnson, senior Calum Rogers, juniors Ryan Evans, Nick Peterson and Brian Kloes, sophomores Devon Mackenzie, Nick Giordano, Sean McCabe and Drake Levreau and freshmen T.J. Carr and Ryan Renderman.
As individual state qualifiers, Taylor was 18th in Friday’s all-around (48.70) and reached the still rings finals (9th, 8.05). Johnson was seventh in the high bar finals (8.65). Evans, Mackenzie, Carr and Renderman also were individual qualifiers.
Taylor has been part of three state trophy lineups.
“Next year is No. 4,” Taylor said. “This year feels really good. I think I improved a lot. I hit 50.00 (all-around) for the first time ever.”
The Lions won sectionals (145.50) minus Adler. Without Adler at the state finals, the Lions would have finished sixth.
Adler missed the previous two state meets because of club nationals. In 2021, fellow standout all-arounder Alec Paras took a red-eye flight from club nationals to help LTHS win, but Paras also missed the 2022 state finals his senior year.
Adler’s 54.85 all-around on May 13 would have placed third individually. Adler was the only gymnast this year to compete after club nationals.
“[Returning] meant a lot because I haven’t been here before,” Adler said.
“The atmosphere was way more than I expected. I’ve seen videos and talked to teammates, but they never mentioned the cheering is that loud, the stands were packed and all that.”
A 2022 state qualifier on horse and high bar, Hanyuk made his competitive debut April 15 with improved scores on both events this season.
“We got second, which is a huge accomplishment. I’m pretty proud of our team, pretty proud of myself for coming back, helping out the team. it’s just a nice feeling,” Hanyuk said.
Johnson competed for the first time since club gymnastics as an eighth grader simply to re-connect with the sport.
“I definitely had no expectations coming into the year,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know where we’d end up, but getting second, that’s much better than I ever thought we were going to do. I’m excited and happy about that.”
The Lions first competed on vault on May 13 and scored a season-high and meet-best 27.00. Just before state, the Lions used a 40-minute training window at Premier Gymnastics Academy to practice vaults with a landing pit.
Zeman praised Rogers’ enthusiasm as their first competitor.
“[Rogers] went back and he’s like, ‘Guys, let’s get this thing going,’ and they were on fire. Vault was amazing and we just kept it going from there,” Zeman said. “This meet flew so fast, that it was easy to keep a good pace from one event to another. We were able to stay hot throughout the whole meet.”