Todd Bounces Back, but Larkin's Program Still Struggles
Byline: John Radtke
One of the non-basketball events that traditionally highlights the holiday season is the Larkin girls gymnastics invitational.
For the past 18 years, coach Bob Todd and the Royals have hosted the event, which last year featured 16 teams competing on the first Saturday in January.
But, this past Saturday the event had to be cancelled, or more appropriately, postponed.
No, there wasn't a snowstorm. And, no, someone didn't forget to open the doors at Larkin.
The reason for the postponement was simple - the guy in charge (Todd) couldn't be there.
Well, that's not entirely true either. Todd could have been there, but not officially.
On Dec. 16, the longtime fixture at Larkin suffered a heart attack. As heart attacks go, Todd says, this one wasn't serious. He's had a bulging disc in his neck for some time now. On the morning of Dec. 16, though, he couldn't breathe and figured he'd better head to the doctor. Blockage was found in the back artery of his heart.
He was released from the hospital Dec. 18 after the artery was cleaned out and this past Monday he returned to his teaching duties with a clean bill of health.
All of this wasn't what Todd or the Larkin program needed right now.
"Our program is struggling," Todd said. "The school is making it very tough for us. We constantly have to tear our gym down for girls basketball and each year we're getting fewer and fewer kids who want to do that."
In fairness, Todd says it's not just Larkin's girls gymnastics program that is struggling.
"It's not just our school," he said. "A lot of schools in the state are having the same problems."
While Larkin has never had a state champion, Todd's program has produced some state medals. Amy Kovacs was fourth at state in the all-around in 1989, a year after taking sixth on the bars. Beth Fitchie had the program's highest finish ever at state in 1998 when she was third on the floor exercise. She also took fifth in the all-around that year and fourth on the beam in 1999. In 1992, Jill Thomson was fifth on the vault.
But the top competitors around Elgin now compete at the club level and while Todd compliments the Spring Hill Gymnastics Academy in Elgin as being a great help to his high school program, it's still not the same as the old days were around Larkin gymnastics.
Todd's program, which is a co-op between Elgin and Larkin, currently has just 10 girls participating in it. And this could be the last year of coaching gymnastics for Todd, who has been at it at Larkin for 24 years.
"I've been fighting for years to keep the program alive," Todd said. "But it's to the point now that with the health issue ... I'm tired. I haven't decided yet but I'm leaning that way (to retiring from coaching gymnastics).
"A lot depends on how the school deals with some of these situations we have. I know when (he steps down) that the program could be lost for the kids."
But Todd, who turned 52 last week, also has family and baseball to be concerned with. His son Robby is beginning his college career at the Illinois Institute of Technology while daughter Lyndsey will be moving on next fall to either Northern Illinois or Western Illinois, most likely.
Todd is also becoming more and more involved as the point man for the Elgin American Legion Post 57 summer baseball team. …