PALATINE – Jenny Covers solidified her spot in state history Friday night, whether she realized it or not.
The Prairie Ridge senior became the seventh gymnast to win multiple all-around titles at the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Meet. Covers scored 38.7 to take her second all-around championship in three years at Palatine High School.
DeKalb’s Jessica Morreale was second at 38.275. Covers capped her preliminaries performance with a 9.8 in floor exercise and a 9.9 in vault.
“I haven’t actually thought [about a spot in history],” said a beaming Covers, who will attend Minnesota on a full athletic scholarship. “It’s pretty sweet. My freshman year, I was looking at [Fremd’s] Mary Burke, wanting to be like her. I don’t think of myself that way now. They were legends. They were so good.”
Burke won all-around state titles in 2005, 2007 and 2008. Chances are, there are girls all over the state right now regarding Covers in a similar light.
Competition starts over in all four finals events, which start at 5:45 p.m. today. Covers scored 9.625 on the uneven bars and 9.375 on balance beam and will compete in all four finals. She now has five state titles in her career.
Covers won the all-around as a sophomore and might have repeated last year had she not fallen on the uneven bars.
“That fueled me a lot, missing by one fall last year,” Covers said. “I was really nervous [starting on bars]. I had some jitters and I was just happy to stay on. I put a lot more pressure on myself this year. I knew if I did this and this and this, I should have it.”
Covers said she strained a stomach muscle during her balance beam routine, but she came back strong in her final two events. She nailed a double-back flip in pike position on her first tumbling pass in her floor exercise routine. On her second pass, she again executed it well and almost burst into a smile.
“I fell on that one in warmups and hurt my [left] ankle,” she said. “There was a bad spot in the floor, so I switched it and ended that pass in a different corner.”
Prairie Ridge coach Lee Battaglia had set the goal of 4 for 4 for Covers all through the postseason meets.
“From the regionals on, she’s 12 for 12 now,” Battaglia said. “What more can you ask for? I said, ‘Let them beat you.’ She has such great skills that if somebody beat her, I’d be the first to shake their hand. And Jenny would be the second.”
Prairie Ridge junior Nikki Novak, competing in her first high school state meet, finished 15th all-around at 36.825. Novak had a fall on the balance beam and in her floor exercise, but qualified for the finals on uneven bars and vault.
Defending team champion Carmel has 148.875 to lead the team standings. Team scores can only go up with performances in the finals. Lake Forest is second with 147.875. Prairie Ridge is eighth among the eight teams with 143.150, but the Wolves were dealing with several injuries.
Battaglia worked several girls into the competition Friday. Senior Heather Kill, six months removed from surgery to repair her damaged right ACL, competed one last time on the uneven bars. Sarah Kramer, who suffered a sprained left ankle in the Stevenson Sectional, competed on balance beam and in floor exercise. And Danielle Dyra, who missed more than a month with a badly sprained left ankle, performed her floor exercise routine.
Colleen Bransley and Brittany Potts also competed on the balance beam.