Girls gymnastics: Prairie Ridge doubles up on its fun to win sectional

Defending state champions take top spot over Lake Zurich

Prairie Ridge co-op's Gracie Willis performs on the uneven parallel bars at the Hoffman Estates girls gymnastics sectional meet Feb. 9, 2022.

HOFFMAN ESTATES – Prairie Ridge gymnasts Gabby Riley and Gracie Willis prefer to do their flips two at a time.

Riley landed a double-back flip dismount to win the balance beam, hit her double-back flip landing off the uneven bars and a double-back flip in pike position on her first pass in floor exercise.

Willis pulled off a double-double in floor, with a double-back pike on her first pass and a double-back tuck on her third pass.

Those two led the Wolves’ co-op team to first place with 146.95 Wednesday at the Hoffman Estates Sectional, securing a spot in next week’s state meet at Palatine. Prairie Ridge is the defending team state champion, having won in 2020. No state competition was held last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lake Zurich, with 143.5, was second and has a strong chance at one of the four at-large berths from the four state sectionals. The Glenbard West Sectional, the final sectional, takes place Thursday.

Riley won the all-around and beam and tied with Willis for first in floor exercise. Riley is the defending all-around state champion.

Willis, the defending floor state champion, was second in all-around and tied for second on beam with teammate Paige Magel.

Riley added the double-back beam dismount this year and landed it Wednesday for a 9.45. She won that event at state in 2020.

“It’s very hit or miss. It’s very hard,” Riley said. “You have to go so high and rotate a lot. It was definitely one of my best beams.”

Riley also was second on bars at 9.45 and second on vault (9.475).

Willis was upset about her bars routine when she fell attempting a Jaeger, a maneuver where she swings up on the high bar, releases, does a flip and regrabs the bar.

But she was all smiles later after landing her balance beam routine and nailing the two doubles in floor.

“We started out kind of rough on the first two events, but we definitely came through on the last two [beam and floor],” Willis said. “My floor warmups were not great, so going in I wasn’t super confident. But I trusted myself and trusted my landing, and I was really happy with my floor.

“It’s very tough [to hit the second double-back at the end]. I have to breathe really hard before my last pass.”

Prairie Ridge coach Lexi Redmond was pleased with the performance by the defending champs.

“They did a great job, little hiccups here and there, but they pulled through,” Redmond said. “They were cheering each other on and picking each other up.

“They’re really good about leaving that event behind. If they have a misstep, they just put that event behind them. On floor, Gracie’s excited to be hitting [those doubles]. It’s the second routine in a row she’s hit.”

Riley (37.95), Willis (36.875), Lake Zurich’s Rayna Kauffman (36.675), Palatine’s Jocie Waddington (36.625) and Hoffman Estates’ Elyssa Wuerffel (36.25) were the top five all-around finishers.

Kauffman won the bars at 9.5 and finished third in the all-around and qualified in three individual events. She was thrilled with her winning bars performance, particularly with her bail (swinging from the high bar and grabbing the low bar).

“It was definitely my bail. It was my biggest worry. I hit that and was like, ‘All right, we got it,’ " Kauffman said. “Then I stuck the [double back] landing for the score. I’m very excited for next week. I get to show what I have for the last time.”

Prospect sophomore Emily Gianfranceso won the vault at 9.5 on a Yurchenko layout.

“I’m really happy that I’ve been able to compete it so many times this year and get it super consistent,” Gianfrancesco said. “I’m really excited that I’ve been getting higher scores.

“I did it how I always do it and stayed confident. I knew I could hit an amazing vault. I just tried my best and got really excited.”

Lake Zurich coach Chelsie Grotelueschen feels like her team has a great chance at an at-large state berth. The Bears went through a tough week as gymnast Gianna Mirabella’s family’s house burned down on Saturday.

Mirabella competed in three events and had Lakr Zurich’s best score (9.05) on beam.

“Scores aside we want to see the girls just enjoy what they’re doing and take the moment,” Grotelueschen said. “It’s so easy to let fear and anxiety overtake that. It’s been a wild week for our team.

“Gianna did awesome on three of the four events after such an emotional week. After she finished each event we were all in tears for her being such a solid competitor. The energy and everything was there. It was such an amazing moment tonight. No matter what happens, no one can take that moment and excitement away from the team. We went through the lows and highs together.”

Hoffman Estates Girls Gymnastics Sectional

Team scores (top team advance to state meet at Palatine next week): 1. Prairie Ridge co-op 146.95, 2. Lake Zurich 143.5, 3. Barrington 140.85, 4. Palatine 138.225, 5. Hersey 138.125, 6. Prospect 137.55.

Vault: 1. Gianfrancesco (Pros) 9.5, 2. Riley (PR) 9.45, 3 (tie). Stennett (Barr), Waddington (Pal), Kauffman (LZ) 9.375.

Uneven bars: 1. Kauffman (LZ) 9.5, 2. Riley (PR) 9.45, 3. Tangorra (BG) 9.375, 4. Waddington (Pal) 9.3, 5. Nemcek (Her) 9.275.

Balance beam: 1. RIiey (PR) 9.45, 2 (tie). Willis (PR), Magel (PR) 9.225, 4. Wuerffel (HE) 8.975, 5. Tokunaga (Fremd) 8.9.

All-around: 1. Riley (PR) 37.95, 2. Willis (PR) 36.875, 3. Kauffman (LZ) 36.675, 4. Waddington (Pal) 36.625, 5. Wuerffel (HE) 36.25.

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