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Lyons' Michelle Cozza performs on floor exercise during Downers North's Mike Williams Big Purple Girls Gymnastics Invitational. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Michelle Cozza doesn’t have to land in Champaign, but it might be hard for the Lyons junior to break a family tradition.
Cozza is a new addition to Lyons girls gymnastics team this season, but her face is familiar to coach Kari Karubas-Powell and the rest of the Lions who grew up watching Michelle’s older sisters compete for Lyons.
Michelle became the last member of her family to join the Lions, following older sisters Catherine and Carolyn. Catherine is a senior at Illinois and Carolyn is a sophomore. Their parents, Phil and Lynn Cozza of Western Springs, also attended Illinois.
Carolyn was the most decorated gymnast among the three sisters, but Michelle is just getting started.
She won the first invitational of her prep career Saturday at Downers North’s Mike Williams Big Purple by edging teammate Kelsy Kurfirst (35.925) for the all-around title with 36.75 points. Cozza also won uneven bars (9.35) while taking second on vault (9.65), balance beam (8.40) and floor exercise (9.35).
“I usually don’t worry about the beginning of meets and what skills I want to make,” Cozza said. “With the beam, I did not start off our best.”
The addition of Cozza has made Lyons even better this season after finishing sixth at last year’s state meet. Lyons won the Big Purple title for the first time after taking the Hinsdale South Invitational to open the season.
Cozza joined Lyons this season after competing exclusively for her club team, Flying High Sports and Rec. Center out of Countryside. Cozza said a club rule prevented freshmen and sophomores from competing for their high school teams.
“We all feel like we’ve known the Cozzas for years,” Karubas-Powell said. “She is a positive, motivated young lady. We are honored. She brings so much. She is a beautiful athlete to watch. You can’t ask for any more.”
With accomplished sisters involved in gymnastics, Michelle grew up in the gym. Most gymnasts apply liberal amounts of chalk to their hands before an event, but Cozza takes it a step further by standing in the chalk box to dry off her feet.
“I’m excited to be a part of LT,” Cozza said. “It’s surreal after all those times watching my sisters. I always looked up to them.”
Catherine has been a youth gymnastics coach at Flying High since 2006. Carolyn, who is studying business, led Lyons to a second place finish at state by placing third on vault and floor exercise.
“I don’t think about their own successes,” Michelle said of her sisters. “They motivate me. They give me advice and tell me to stay calm.”~.