Baars, Prairie Ridge thrive at Fremd
Prairie Ridge co-op and senior Nikki Baars hit the floor running at the Fremd girls gymnastics sectional, and the Wolves didn't look back.
Baars swept all four events in cruising to the all-around title (38.4) and powering Prairie Ridge co-op to its sixth consecutive sectional title with 147.85 points in Palatine.
Conant took second with 144.10 points followed by Maine South (143.15), Fremd (142.125), Palatine (140.20) and Hersey (140.025).
Prairie Ridge, the two-time defending state champion, joins Glenbrook South as one of the four automatic qualifiers to advance to the state meet Feb. 17-18 at Palatine High School.
The state preliminaries and state finals have a new starting time, with both sessions beginning at 2 p.m.
Conant currently holds the third best at-large mark, with the top four non-automatic qualifiers also advancing. But the Cougars will have to wait patiently with two sectionals remaining to see if their score was good enough.
Baars made it look easy on Tuesday night, hitting a Yurchenko layout in winning the vault (9.775). She continued by winning bars (9.5), and beam (9.5) before capping her effort with a big performance on floor (9.625).
"It always nice when you start on a strong event and you go out and hit it," said Baars of her opening vault series. "We just wanted to go out and do what we know -- and we did it."
Sophomore Kira Karblom supported the Wolves' effort by taking fourth in the all-around (36.90), third on vault (9.5) and adding a fourth-place finish on floor (9.375).
Sophomore Maddy Kim also did her part for Prairie Ridge by taking third on bars (9.425).
Despite a shaky beam performance, the Wolves have positioned themselves well for the state meet.
"They've been there before and that helps," said Prairie Ridge co-op coach Lee Battaglia of his team that has secured five consecutive state trophies. "I feel pretty good. It will come down to beam, and the kids have to put it together when it counts."
"We're more than ready," said Baars. "There is always pressure, but I think we handle it well."
Senior Mel Meyrick kept Conant's state hopes alive by taking second on the vault (9.55) and second on floor (9.5). She also finished third in the all-around (36.925).
"The waiting is actually harder than competing," said Conant coach Anthony Avella of the Cougars' state hopes. "I'm really proud of these girls -- every one of them did their job tonight."
Including junior Bailey Bloom, who took third on the beam (9.375). Freshman Kennedy O'Connor finished eighth in the all-around (35.65) with freshman Julia Betts adding key scores.
"I just felt really confident today and I wanted to support the team," said Bloom, who qualified for her second consecutive state meet on beam. "We all motivated each other and we did the best we could."
Junior Abby Moran anchored Fremd's attack. The Vikings started off shaky on beam, but Moran was solid in taking sixth place (9.1). Moran picked it up a notch on the floor (9.45) by taking third place.
"I've been very consistent with all my passes and I have worked so hard to get there," said Moran of her floor performance. "We have come so far since the beginning of the year and we did everything we possibly could to get to where we are today."
Palatine's Abby Amato picked a good night to have her best performance. The Pirates junior started the night by taking fifth on the beam (9.225); she added a sixth-place finish on floor (9.3) and finished fifth in the all-around (36.525) in supporting a solid effort by Pirates.
"I'm just so excited now, and my team was right there with me the entire night," said Amato. "I was really confident on beam and all the hard work paid off, I had a goal in my mind, and it was nice to hit."
Hersey's Mackenzie Kamysz had a few bobbles to start her night, but she sure ended her night on the steady note. The Huskies junior took second on beam (9.475) to erase some early disappointments.
"I had a rough beginning, so I wanted to crush the last event," said Kamysz. "I knew I had to fight for it and stick it."
Rolling Meadow freshman Nicole Kane also came up big by taking second on the bars (9.45).
"I worked really hard on bars and feel extremely comfortable," said Kane. "It was really stressful, but I'm happy I was able to hit."
Barrington freshman Ashley Diaz also rose to the occasion by placing fourth on bars (9.325) and securing a state spot.
"I'm really excited -- bars have always been one of my favorite events," said Diaz. "I didn't even think I would qualify for sectionals, so to qualify for state is huge."
Jacobs junior Molly Meehan also secured a state berth by taking fourth on vault (9.45).
"Vault is my happy place and I was comfortable," said Meehan who used a Yurchenko pike.