Girls gymnastics: Prairie Ridge’s Gracie Willis, Gabby Riley tie for floor exercise state title

Floor winners 1st Gracie Willis of Prairie Ridge, 1st	Gabriella Riley of Prairie Ridge, 3rd Rayna Kauffman of Lake Zurich, 4th Stephanie Avram of Niles West, and 5th Madeline Kees of DeKalb at the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Finals Saturday February 19, 2022 at Palatine High School.

PALATINE – 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 reset mentally for floor exercise.

Willis and Riley each shoved the beam disappointment aside to sparkle on floor and each score 9.675 to tie for the state title Saturday at the IHSA Girls Gymnastics 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.

Prairie Ridge’s Gracie Willis competes in the floor exercise during the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Finals Saturday February 19, 2022 at Palatine High School.

“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 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.’ "

Prairie Ridge’s Gabriella Riley competes in the floor exercise during the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Finals Saturday February 19, 2022 at Palatine High School.

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 Friday.

“I added a twist because last meet I got deducted for not having a twist,” 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 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 about two points.

While team scores can improve with finals results, neither Vernon Hills or DeKalb had a realistic chance of catching Prairie Ridge on Saturday.

IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Meet

Team scores: 1. Prairie Ridge 148.5, 2. Vernon Hills 146.7, 3. DeKalb 146.575, 4. Glenbard West 144.9, 5. Carmel 144.775, 6. Lake Zurich 143.525, 7. Stevenson 143.5, 8. Downers Grove South 141.875.

Vault: 1 (tie). Livy Tran (VH), Anna Becker (Libertyville) 9.725, 3. Emily Gianfrancesco (Prospect) 9.675, 4 (tie). Amanda Hamann (Warren), Kelly Klobach (Hinsdale C.) 9.65.

Uneven bars: 1. Maddy Kees (DeK) 9.65, 2 (tie). Olivia Tangorra (Buffalo Grove), Clare Keane (Car) 9.5, 4. Becker (Lib) 9.425, 5. Gabby Riley (PR) 9.25.

Balance beam: 1. Kees (DeK) 9.425, 2. Keane (Car) 9.3, 3 (tie). Annabella Simpson (DeK), Annika Chudy (VH) 9.25, 5 (tie). Katrina Carlson (DGS), Elyssa Wuerffel (Hoffman Estates), Stephanie Avrum (Niles W.) 9.125.

Floor exercise: 1 (tie). Riley (PR), Gracie Willis (PR) 9.675, 3. Rayna Kauffman (LZ) 9.4, 4. Avrum (NW) 9.375, 5. Kees (DeK) 9.35.

All-around: 1 (tie). Willis (PR), Kees (DeK) 37.8, 3. Ashley Schabes (Stevenson) 37.7, 4. Riley (PR) 37.35, 5. Chudy (VH) 37.325.

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