Girls gymnastics: DeKalb co-op’s Maddy Kees takes state all-around title; sophomore Annabella Simpson qualifies for 2 finals

DeKalb-Sycamore gymnast Maddy Kees competes on the uneven bars during a meet Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, at DeKalb High School.

PALATINE – DeKalb co-op senior Maddy Kees strived in recent workouts to make everything seem like realistic competition to prepare for the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Meet.

“Just being consistent at practice is how it will end up in a meet, just staying consistent in my training and visualization really helps too,” Kees said.

Everything came together for Kees on Friday as she tied for the all-around title and qualified for finals in all four events.

Sophomore Annabella Simpson qualified in floor exercise and on balance beam, giving the Barbs six entries in the finals.

Kees tied with Prairie Ridge’s Gracie Willis at 37.80 for the all-around title, which was decided Friday. Prairie Ridge, at 147.9, holds a secure lead for the team state title, while Vernon Hills (146.475) and DeKalb (146.3) will battle it out for second. No other schools are close enough to catch them.

Kees will have four shots at another title or medal in the finals, which start at 2:15 p.m. Saturday at Palatine High School.

“I’m super happy that I won all-around my senior year,” said Kees, who will compete at Northern Illinois University next year. “It’s been a goal of mine since freshman year, so to be able to do that was awesome. To qualify for all four events was also a goal of mine, and I haven’t done that before. I’m super happy my senior year ends on a really good note.”

Kees was especially happy with her 9.4 score on the balance beam.

“I was really proud of beam,” she said. “It’s been kind of an uphill climb, so to hit my best beam routine of the season at state was my proudest moment.”

Barbs coach Andy Morreale said Kees put everything together at the best possible time.

“She’s just been steady all year but hasn’t made that jump, but today she put it all together,” Morreale said. “Our whole team has done that. We just kind of slowly have gotten better and better all year. Sectional was our highest team score, and now state is our highest score. It was pretty exciting.”

Simpson also earned two more chances to perform at state.

“I was definitely very excited about floor,” Simpson said. “I showed off more in that, and I was tighter than I normally am. My dancing was sharp and clean, and on my tumbling passes I was going as hard as I could.

“On beam, I went as hard as I could because I knew if I did that I could make it in that routine. I was very proud and excited. They were definitely my best.”

The Barbs hope to leapfrog Vernon Hills and bring home the runner-up trophy for a third time.

“I think at 0.175 behind we have a chance,” Morreale said. “We’re happy. We did about as good as we can do and maybe we can sneak in a second.”

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