Rolling Meadows gymnast with Down syndrome competes in first meet

ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. (WLS) -- Mixed in with dozens of gymnastics routines at Rolling Meadows High School on the bars, floor and vault Tuesday night, one moment on beam stood out.

It was Rolling Meadows senior Grace Crilly's routine, her first ever performance at a real gymnastics meet.

"I knew I'd be nervous," Crilly said, adding "But having my friends there, that makes me feel better."

Teamwork is what the sport is all about for the 17-year-old high school senior. She has Down syndrome, yet has stuck with gymnastics throughout high school because of the camaraderie she experiences.

Despite having never competed, Crilly might be the hardest working gymnast at Rolling Meadows according to teammate Nicole Kane.

"It makes everyone else want to prove themselves also," Kane said.

"The impact that she's had on my staff and my athletes, we will carry this forever," added Michael Costa, head gymnastics coach.

At Tuesday's Senior Night meet Costa wanted to reward Crilly for teaching his program about the power of acceptance. Instead of Crilly cheering on her teammates, the roles were flipped and she was brought into the beam team's huddle.

Even with stumbles, Crilly stuck her landing. But that wasn't her favorite part. Instead, she preferred, "just being with everyone because I love my teammates."

Crilly brings that attitude to the swim and water polo teams at Rolling Meadows High School as well; she competes in both sports. As a three-sport athlete throughout high school, she will be one of just five seniors awarded the Gold Mustang in the spring. She said that's been her goal for years.

"Even if you do have a disability, you can make a goal for yourself and accomplish it and be able to do something you haven't done before," Crilly said.
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