EVANSTON — Mary Iliopoulos has the talent and tricks to serve as the Maine East girls gymnastics team’s top all-arounder, but the back pain she experienced at the end of her freshman campaign has prevented her from filling that roll this season.
A trainer told Iliopoulos that a structural issue with her pelvic girdle was causing the back pain, according to Blue Demons gymnastics coach Angie Hughes. Iliopoulos went to physical therapy last spring and missed the start of her freshman softball season.
The injury has mentally affected her as a sophomore this season.
“I’m always afraid that I’ll do something that will set it off, and then I just won’t be able to compete,” Iliopoulos said. “I still have to do exercises to keep it strong. It causes pain sometimes, but not as much.”
Iliopoulos has continued to do planks and other core-strengthening exercises this season to try to ward off injury. The physical therapy and maintenance she’s done have helped her stay healthy so far, but, as of Jan. 4, Iliopoulos had yet to compete on floor exercise this season.
Hughes said Iliopoulos is hesitant about performing on floor — it’s the most physically demanding event in girls gymnastics, and its tumbling passes often place a great deal of strain on one’s back — because of her weak back.
Iliopoulos has focused on vault, uneven bars and balance beam as a result. She recorded the Blue Demons’ best score on all three apparatuses at Evanston’s Brinkworth/Munch Invitational on Jan. 4, scoring 7.5 on vault, 6.75 on uneven bars and 6.15 on beam.
“She’s been doing only three all season,” Hughes said. “She’s been staying away from floor, but it’s not because she’s not capable. She’s totally capable. She would be our strongest floor girl if we could get her there, but … she’s afraid that something on floor is going to tear her back out.”