Girls gymnastics: Prairie Ridge’s Gabby Riley qualifies for state in 2 events

Prairie Ridge’s Gabriella Riley competes in uneven parallel bars Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, during  the IHSA Stevenson Gymnastics Sectional at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire.

LINCOLNSHIRE – Prairie Ridge co-op gymnast Gabby Riley experienced one of those nights where she felt really good half the time and really frustrated the other half.

Riley took second on vault and second on balance beam at Wednesday’s IHSA Stevenson Sectional but fell on her floor exercise routine and on uneven bars.

With the top-five finishes, Riley qualified for the state meet at Palatine on Feb. 17 and 18. She also likely will pick up an a-large berth in the all-around, where she will be a threat to win.

But Riley was disappointed that her fall in floor likely knocked her out of a chance to defend her state title in that event.

“It stinks,” said Riley, a senior at Cary-Grove. “I really like floor. It’s my favorite event.”

Riley shared the floor exercise state championship with former teammate Gracie Willis last year. But on her first tumbling pass Wednesday, she came up short on her second flip and fell to her backside.

Several of the gymnasts struggled with the floor in the meet. Only two scores were higher than 9.

“There’s cracks in the floor where there’s no bounce,” Riley said. “I took off in the middle of one of those cracks. My first flip was really bad, so the second one didn’t happen.”

Prairie Ridge draws competitors from C-G, Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South and Prairie Ridge. Riley, Central sophomore Maria Kakish and C-G senior Delaney Wells were the Wolves’ three gymnasts to make sectional.

Kakish received an 8.775 on floor and was eighth, putting her in range for an at-large berth. The Hoffman Estates Sectional on Thursday is the last of the four sectionals. The top five sectional performers in each event and all-around automatically qualify. The top 12 remaining scores out of the sectionals then are given at-large qualifiers.

Riley scored 9.65 on vault for second and 9.4 on beam for second. She fell attempting a difficult skill on uneven bars and scored 8.575.

Riley’s all-around score (36.275) was seventh in the sectional and should get one of the 12 at-large berths.

Wolves coach Lexi Redmond felt badly for Riley with the falls.

“Her floor routine is beautiful,” Redmond said. “I know that if the floor would have been not as holey, she would have nailed that routine. She just hit a dead spot on the floor, and took that bounce away from her.

“We’ve seen a lot of falls in floor. That was her watered-down version. It’s not even her full set.”

Riley, who will compete at NCAA Division I Kent State next year, tried a Maloney on her bars routine, where she toes the lower bar, swings under, releases and catches the high bar.

“I just learned it this year,” Riley said. “It’s very new. I was just short. I didn’t throw as hard and came up short. I couldn’t catch the high bar. I did it in warmups, so it’s frustrating.”

Redmond said Riley has been hitting that skill in practice.

“It’s very difficult. You have to have a lot of power coming through. She didn’t have enough power through the low bar to catch the high bar,” Redmond said. “It just wasn’t there tonight. It’s OK. We’re going to hope we get the all-around score we need to advance to state in all-around.”

Kakish missed on a skill on her bars routine, which is her favorite event. She did not have enough momentum to make another swing on the high bar and had to drop and restart. She said she was mentally battling with herself before the routine.

“I was trying to go through it and I wasn’t having it. I knew I was going to fall before I started the routine because I was already picturing it,” Kakish said. “I wasn’t mentally in it. I haven’t been hitting routines at all this week, so I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t hit it.”

Redmond thought Kakish did well for her first high school sectional. The Wolves started on balance beam, and none of them fell.

“She did excellent tonight,” Redmond said. “She’s been struggling with [beam] all season. When she came off the beam I saw the biggest smile because she was so excited she stuck her routine.

“She didn’t get enough up into that handstand [on bars]. It’s funny because that’s her favorite event. It stings for her.”

Redmond also was pleased with Wells’ meet.

“Delaney had a back injury from last meet and an ankle injury,” Redmond said. “The girl keeps fighting. Her floor was beautiful, her beam was beautiful. I’m proud of them, they’re good fighters.”

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