Prairie Ridge co-op captures 2nd straight state title
Prairie Ridge senior Gracie Willis could not have asked for more as she celebrated her golden birthday.
Willis hit two of her best routines to qualify for the finals in floor exercise and balance beam, tied for first all-around and helped set the Wolves up for their fifth team title at the IHSA girls gymnastics state meet Friday at Palatine High School.
"It's an insane day," said Willis, who will compete at the AIr Force Academy next year. "It was the best birthday I've ever had."
Prairie Ridge co-op junior Gabby Riley made the finals in three events and took fourth all-around. The all-around is finished on Friday, with the top 10 competitors (and ties) advancing to Saturday's finals.
While individuals can raise their team's scores in Saturday's finals, which start at 2:15 p.m., the Wolves' lead is safe. Prairie Ridge has 147.9 points, far enough ahead of Vernon Hills (146.475) and DeKalb (146.3) that it cannot be caught.
The team title will be the second in a row for Prairie Ridge, which draws athletes from Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South and Prairie Ridge.
"The girls were strong, they were in the right mindset," Wolves first-year coach Lexi Redmond said. "This is a great way to send Gracie out on her 18th, rocking her golden birthday. They did very well.
"They always pull together, they're very good competitors. I'm just honored to coach them this year and take them this far."
Willis shared the all-around title with DeKalb's Maddy Kees at 37.80. Willis scored a preliminary-high 9.55 on balance beam to tie Keys, who was already done at that point.
Riley, who won all-around in 2020, qualified for the finals in floor exercise, uneven bars and balance beam.
Willis had struggled with her Jaeger on the uneven bars, where she swings upward releases, does a flip and then catches the bar on the way down. She took that out and added a blind pirouette, a full turn walking with her hands on the top bar, for a clean bars routine.
"The team felt a lot better, I wanted to put up a solid routine for the team," Willis said. "Throughout the years when I've fallen on routines, my team has always had my back and been there to hit for me. I was so happy today to hit everything for my team and just have their backs. I felt great about that."
Riley, who scored 37.35 for fourth all-around, has a chance to defend her balance team state title in the finals.
"We did really good tonight and it makes it easier for tomorrow, we're a little bit ahead," Riley said. "I added more skills and upgraded. I like doing the harder skills."
Riley added a second double-back flip on her third tumbling pass in floor and a Yurchenko full on her vault.
Paige Magel did not qualify for any finals, but gave the Wolves more solid performances and thrilled the crowd by hitting her Jaeger on bars. Magel, who had the labrum in her right shoulder repaired a year ago, had some anxious moments during Friday's competition.
"It was kind of popping during warmups. It wasn't really hurting," Magel said. "It was just shocking because it hasn't happened before. I did the major parts of my routine. It was just a little nerve-racking."
Freshman Thea Scheuer, Audrey Burke and Sophia Krcik also contributed in scoring for Prairie Ridge. Cassidy Barnes competed on bars for the Wolves, but did not have one of the top four scores.
"Thea hit every event today beautifully. Next year she'll do all four (events)," Redmond said. "Paige got a 9.1 on bars. With that shoulder injury and still being able to do that is amazing."
Glenbard North junior Brooklyn McQuillan (35.775), Naperville North seniors Rigley Jump (35.4) and Katie Kristle (34.625), Geneva sophomore Brooke Lussnug (34.95) and Downers Grove co-op junior Emily Smetana (34.525) also were in the all-around competition.