Girls gymnastics: Prairie Ridge co-op’s Maria Kakish takes third at IHSA state meet in vault

Gabby Riley finishes without a medal

Maria Kakish of Prairie Ridge competes on the vault during the IHSA Girls Gymnastics state finals Saturday February 18, 2023 in Palatine.

PALATINE – Prairie Ridge co-op’s Maria Kakish walked away with a medal, flowers and the satisfaction of landing the best vault of her life.

The Wolves’ Gabby Riley left empty-handed and confused after pulling off something no other competitor attempted.

Kakish, who qualified at-large in the vault and surprised herself by making the finals, tied for third with a 9.7 in Saturday’s finals at the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Meet at Palatine High School.

Riley missed a medal by one spot in vault and took eighth on balance beam, despite not falling and completing a double-back-flip dismount. Prairie Ridge’s coaches tried to make an inquiry as to why Riley received only an 8.975 on beam but received no answer from judges.

Riley received a 9.35 in Friday’s preliminaries with a layout back-flip dismount. She had one wobble after her back flip-flop layout but did not fall.

“I thought her beam routine was great,” Prairie Ridge assistant coach Mary Ann Vogt said. “Everybody in the state thought her beam routine was great. I just don’t even understand the scores. Her execution was just as good as everybody else’s. We don’t understand. We’re flabbergasted. Flabbergasted, because that was a great routine.

Gabriella Riley of Prairie Ridge competes on the beam during the IHSA Girls Gymnastics state finals Saturday February 18, 2023 in Palatine.

“She should have been in the 9.2 to 9.5 range, depending on how they’re judging. She should be rewarded for the dismount. Yesterday she did an easier dismount and scored higher. We’re kind of in shock. I feel bad for Gabby.”

Riley also added a full twist to her Yurchenko vault and scored 9.65, which was 0.025 from a medal. She was determined to pull out all stops at state.

“I had one wobble. Nobody knows,” said Riley, a senior at Cary-Grove who will compete at Kent State next year. “Nobody else does a double. I thought by doing it you’d get something for it.”

Kakish, a Crystal Lake Central sophomore, came to her first state meet hoping to grab a spot in the vault finals and did far better than that. She stuck the landing on her first vault, which made the difference.

“The first one I put everything into it because I was so nervous,” said Kakish, who scored 9.55 in Friday’s prelims. “I just needed to go hard and do the vault. I put my arms in front [on the landing], that helps balance me out.

“I was aiming to get a 9.6. I was really surprised. I was really excited and started hugging all the coaches and Gabby.”

Vogt was filling in with assistant Shawn Riley for head coach Lexi Redmond, who was attending a family funeral. She knew Kakish was getting a high score after she finished.

“The past two weeks her vault’s really improved,” Vogt said. “I’m so excited. She’s such a hard worker, and she’s been working on her vault. She sometimes doesn’t always believe in herself, and that’s what we trying to get into her. She’s starting to drink the Kool-Aid – the confidence.”

Riley finished her career with six state medals but none this year. As a freshman, she won the all-around and balance beam and was fifth on vault. As a junior, she tied teammate Gracie Willis for the floor exercise title, was fourth all-around and fifth on the uneven bars.

Riley was thrilled for Kakish.

“It was awesome. She’s been working so hard. I’m so proud of her,” Riley said. “It’s not the outcome I wanted. I had fun, so that’s good.”

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