Iliopoulos improves technique — and outlook
Maine East's Mary Iliopoulos competes on the floor exercise at the Brinkworth/Munch Girls Gymnastics Invitational on Saturday at Evanston. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 11, 2013 6:47AM
EVANSTON — Following two years of competitive gymnastics, Mary Iliopoulos gave up the sport near the end of sixth grade.
Iliopoulos, now a freshman on Maine East’s gymnastics team, made that decision for several reasons. First, her time was stretched far too thin. Iliopoulos would be driven to practice immediately after school, practice for four hours at her club and arrive home at 8:30 p.m.
In addition, she became exhausted by the pressure to perform well at meets, and she wanted to play traveling softball.
“It was a lot of work, pressure and stress,” Iliopoulos said. “I really couldn’t take it anymore, but I enjoy (gymnastics) a lot more now. It’s just a lot less pressure.”
Although Iliopoulos gave up club gymnastics more than two years ago, the skills — for instance, her tumbling — which she learned and developed during that time have carried over to her first season with the Blue Demons. She has established herself as Maine East’s second-best all-around gymnast and, on Jan. 5, Iliopoulos set personal bests on vault (7.850), beam (7.450) and floor exercise (7.800) at the Evanston Invitational.
“She has a lot of potential,” Maine East senior Anne Kaczkowski said. “I think she’s improved a lot.”
Iliopoulos’ improvement has been, in part, a result of sheer repetition, which has allowed her to re-acclimate herself to gymnastics and gain confidence in her routines. She also has become comfortable competing against older, more experienced gymnasts.
Kaczkowski, Maine East’s No. 1 all-around gymnast this season, has been integral in helping Iliopoulos reach that comfort level. She has helped the Maine East freshman stay calm in meets by providing reminders and moral support.
“She tells me a bunch of pointers before I go; basically to just stay calm, look pretty when you do everything and stuff like that,” Iliopoulos said. “She’s helped me a lot to get used to (high school gymnastics) and helped me stay calm so I don’t start freaking out.”