A good start at a strong meet for Prairie Ridge co-op
The girls gymnastics state finals just didn't seem the same last season with Prairie Ridge co-op absent for the first time since 2009.
Based on Prairie Ridge's success during Saturday's Hilltopper Invitational at two-time defending state champion Glenbard West, Prairie Ridge should be returning to Palatine once again come February.
Prairie Ridge, in action for the first time this winter, won the extremely competitive invitational with 144.45 points. Runner-up New Trier had a 142.95, followed by 141.25 from the hosts, a 140.2 from Mundelein and 139.75 points from fifth-place Lincoln-Way co-op.
"I thought the meet was really good," Prairie Ridge co-op's Sydney Hallsten said. "This is so much better than what I could've expected so I'm really proud of all of us."
A different team posted the best score in each event and it was vault where Prairie Ridge ran away from the rest of the 12-team field with a 38.2, a full 2 points better than the closest team, New Trier.
Hallsten won with a 9.7 while Gracie Willis, Gabby Riley and Paige Magel each contributed a 9.5. As if that's not impressive enough, Hallsten and Willis are sophomores while Riley and Magel are freshmen competing for the first time.
"Most of us had never competed together as a team since we've got new girls," Hallsten said. "So we had to get our heads together and I thought it was really important for the freshmen to learn how these meets worked and to figure out how to handle it mentally. I thought we did a pretty good job of that."
Hallsten, who placed second on floor, tied with Magel for first place on bars with a 9.6. Hallsten nailed her Jaeger for the first time.
"I had never gotten it in competition before," she said. "So it was great to pull that from practice into a meet."
Graduation took away some prized gymnasts from Glen Ellyn, but the Hilltoppers cupboard is far from empty, especially with Anna Diab healthy.
Diab won floor and tied for first place on beam with Conant's Mikaela Kaminski.
Last year injuries limited Diab to being a beam specialist. On Saturday she had an all-around of 37.2.
"I'm just happy to hit 4-for-4," she said. "I had a lot of fun and I think that was one of the things that makes it the best because sometimes you have a bad meet and it's just like a bad day. I had fun and the meet went even better."
Kaminski said the meet was stressful and a bit nerve-wracking because of the talent in the gym, but she was able to shove aside that nervousness and have a lot of fun competing.
"I had a lot of fun and was really happy with my beam routine," she said. "It's been pretty good, but there are some days where it isn't as good as I would hope so there's always that fear. Am I going to get up and have that really good day or am I going to wobble on this or wobble on that? To do it so well it feels really good."
Mundelein's 35.45 was the top beam score overall with Emma Hallin leading the way with a third-place effort of 9.2.
Sophomore Emily Weiss led the way for the Mundelein, finishing in the top six in three events and finishing with an all-around of 36.4.
"I hit all my routines so that was good for me," Weiss said. "I think we all did a great job and overall had a pretty good meet."
Fremd took sixth place with a 138.6. Kacey Tokunga was seventh on beam while Abby Gallicho and Katie Vessell had 10th place finishes on bars and floor respectively.
Downers Grove co-op's Mia Bowers tied for ninth on vault to help her team take seventh place with a 136.2.
Conant was eighth with a 133.9. In addition to Kaminski's stellar day on beam, Lea Faouaz had a big afternoon, taking third on floor and eighth on bars for the Cougars.
Hersey added a 128.8 with Elizabeth Berk tying for 10th place on beam and Geneva had a 124.85.
New Trier was top on bars with a 37.1, while Lincoln-Way co-op earned bragging rights on floor with a 36.05.