Prairie Ridge co-op puts finishing touches on state championship
Prairie Ridge gymnasts Gracie Willis and Gabby Riley took the teammates sticking together thing to an extreme.
Both girls were contenders for the balance beam individual state title, with high levels of skills, but each fell, knocking them out of contention.
Then, both girls had a few moments to get themselves to prepare mentally for floor exercise.
Willis and Riley each shoved the beam disappointment aside to sparkle on floor and score 9.675s to tie for the state title Saturday at the state meet at Palatine High School.
Willis and Riley's improvements on their floor scores added to Prairie Ridge co-op's team score, putting the Wolves at 148.5 for their fifth state title since 2015. Vernon Hills (146.7) was second and DeKalb co-op (146.575) was third.
"We just tried to forget about it, tried to clear our mind, and floor is a great place to do that, just let go and have fun," said Willis, a senior from Prairie Ridge who will compete at the Air Force Academy next year. "We both just went out there and said, 'No pressure here, do the best we can,' and we had a lot of fun."
Riley shared a laugh with Willis, who was ahead of her in the rotation for both events.
"We were laughing about it because we did the same thing," Riley said. "I definitely had to compose myself and get myself together after that. I did for floor, it was good."
Willis' floor title made her a two-time champion in that event. She won the all-around title on Friday with 37.8 points, tying with DeKalb's Maddy Kees. Riley, who won all-around in 2020, took fourth.
Willis and Riley both lost their footing on the beam after a flip-flop layout, a back handspring followed by a back flip.
"On beam, they were ready in warmups and the flip-flop just got the better of them today," Prairie Ridge coach Lexi Redmond said. "They've been hitting it at practice and at meets. But that's what's so fun about the sport, it's when you step up and it's time to show that judge.
"Floor was phenomenal. I'm so proud of their floor routines. They're competitors. They're very good about, 'OK, that event's over. Leave it behind, we're going on to have fun in our next event.'"
Riley, the defending champion on beam, also took fifth on the uneven bars with a 9.25. She modified her floor routine, which helped her improve her 9.3 score from the preliminaries on Friday.
"I added a twise because last meet I got deducted for not having a twise," said Riley, a junior from Cary-Grove.
On her final floor pass, instead of a double-back flip, she performed a full back flip with a half-twist.
"We both looked at each other and started laughing (when we heard the score)," Riley said of the tie.
It was a fitting finish for Willis, who celebrated her 18th birthday on Friday with the all-around title.
"(The tie) was the beat situation that ever could have happened," Willis said.
Prairie Ridge, which draws competitors from C-G, Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South and Prairie Ridge, defended its team state title by nearly two points.
While team scores can improve with finals results, neither Vernon Hills nor DeKalb had a realistic chance of catching Prairie Ridge on Saturday.