High school gymnastics: Prairie Ridge co-op poised to bring home another title

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

Prairie Ridge co-op girls gymnasts’ main concerns are executing their routines to the best of their ability.

If the Wolves do that, everything will take care of itself and they likely will bring home their fifth team title from the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Meet at Palatine High School on Friday and Saturday.

The preliminary events start at 2:05 p.m. Friday with the top 10 scores, and ties, advancing to Saturday’s finals. The all-around competition will be decided Friday. The finals competition starts new on Saturday, although gymnasts can improve their team’s scores in those events.

Prairie Ridge, which draws competitors from Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South and Prairie Ridge, won the 2020 team state championship with 148.25, ahead of Carmel at 147.85. The Corsairs took a brief lead in the finals, only to have Prairie Ridge’s Gracie Willis and Gabby Riley finish strong in their events and put the Wolves back on top.

Wolves first-year coach Lexi Redmond takes a similar approach to her predecessor, Lee Battaglia.

“I would like to get back up to 148 (team score) if everybody’s hitting,” Redmond said. “I don’t like to tell them the scores, just hit what we need to hit and keep it as clean as possible.”

Prairie Ridge’s 146.95 was the highest score out of the four sectional meets last week by almost a point. Vernon Hills and DeKalb co-op both scored 146.0 to win their sectionals.

Paige Magel (Prairie Ridge) and Audrey Burke (South) were other members of the state champion team two years ago. The other competitor in the lineup, Thea Scheuer, is a freshman at C-G.

Riley, a junior at C-G, will defend her all-around and balance beam titles from 2020. Willis, a senior from Prairie Ridge, is the defending floor exercise champion.

Riley added a double-back flip dismount to her beam routine as well as a double-back flip in pike position on her first pass in floor.

“She looked great. She’s got her head on,” Redmond said.

Willis connected on a difficult beam routine at the Hoffman Estates Sectional last week, but just missed on her Jaeger on bars, a move only a few gymnasts may try to compete at the state meet. With the Jaeger, the competitor swings up on the high bar, releases and flips, then regrabs the bar.

Willis and Magel both missed on that skill at sectional. If both hit that at state, that would add another point to Prairie Ridge’s score as each fall is a half-point deduction.

“Bars has always been the toughest event for me,” said Willis, who will compete at the Air Force Academy next year. “Practice has not been going super-well. I’ve been getting better. I’m hoping at state to really put up a good bar routine to help the team.”

The Wolves’ highest score this season was a 148 in their home gym, Crystal Lake Gymnastics Training Center. Riley feels like the Wolves are ready to finish off the season in style.

“We did really good and we can get better for state,” Riley said.

Prairie Ridge State Qualifiers

Here are the Prairie Ridge co-op gymnasts who have qualified for the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Meet

All-Around: Gabby Riley, Gracie Willis, Paige Magel.

Vault: Riley, Magel.

Uneven bars: Riley, Thea Scheuer.

Balance beam: Riley, Willis, Magel.

Floor exercise: Willis, Riley, Audrey Burke.

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