PALATINE – Prairie Ridge co-op gymnast Nikki Baars showed why she is one of the state’s top high school competitors, both with her performance and mindset.
Baars, a senior at Cary-Grove who competes for the Wolves’ co-op team, was unbeatable at Tuesday’s Fremd Sectional, winning the all-around with a career-best 38.4 and all four events.
Yet Baars offered this self-critique.
“I’m pretty proud of myself, but I always feel like I can do better,” she said. “I feel like I had some mishaps, but I still did well.”
Prairie Ridge, which draws gymnasts from C-G, Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South and Prairie Ridge, won its sixth consecutive sectional championship and will chase a third straight team title at the IHSA state meet Feb. 17 and 18 at Palatine High School.
Sophomores Kira Karlblom (all-around, floor exercise and vault) and Maddy Kim (uneven bars) also had top-five finishes to earn automatic state berths. Kim was sixth in the all-around and likely will receive an at-large berth when the four sectional meets are concluded.
Clancy Raupp and Alyssa Petko also placed high enough and could qualify as individuals, along with competing for the team.
Jacobs junior Molly Meehan scored 9.45 to take fourth in vault and qualify for state.
Prairie Ridge scored 147.85 to win comfortably over second-place Conant at 144.1. The Wolves may need more to repeat as team champion next week.
Baars, the defending uneven bars state champion, felt her 9.625 score in floor exercise was her best event.
“Kira (Karlblom) went before me, and she went to do a tumbling pass and made a face at me,” said Baars, imitating that look by sticking out her tongue. “It made me that much happier. We were making eye contact. The energy got to me, and I was like, ‘I can do this for my team.’ It was really funny.”
Baar’s performances was what Prairie Ridge coach Lee Battaglia has come to expect.
“She’s supposed to do that, hit on all four,” Battaglia said. “She did her job. She’s a good gymnast. All she can do is hit her events and let everything else fall. That’s what happened tonight.”
Karlblom was five-hundredths of a point out of second place in the all-around.
“I did OK,” she said. “I probably could have saved my connection on beam. Vault was definitely my best tonight.”
Meehan was displeased with her first two events, uneven bars and balance beam, before having a talk with her coach, Kim Harrier, from U.S. Gymnastics Training Center in Lake Zurich.
“When I got onto floor, [Harrier] was telling me, ‘You have to get out of this mood,’ ” Meehan said. “I did my best to break out of it in floor. Vault is my best event and always has been, so once I got there I felt comfortable and I was my normal self again. Vault’s kind of my happy place.”
Meehan scored 9.45 on her second vault, a Yurchenko in pike position, to take fourth place and qualify for next week’s state meet. Jacobs does not have a team, and Meehan started the high school season last week, qualifying in all-around and vault. On her first vault, she did the flip in tuck position, but the pike position scored 0.45 higher and sent her to state.
5: First-place medals for Prairie Ridge’s Nikki Baars, a senior at Cary-Grove, who won the all-around and all four events.
AND ANOTHER THING ...
Prairie Ridge has won six consecutive sectional championships and has qualified for the state meet eight consecutive years.
Team scores (top team automatically advances to state): 1. Prairie Ridge 147.85, 2. Conant 144.1, 3. Maine South 143.15, 4. Fremd 142.125, 5. Palatine 140.2, 6. Hersey 140.025.
(Top five automatically advance to state)
Vault: 1. Nikki Baars (PR) 9.775, 2. Melynda Meyrick (Con) 9.55, 3. Kira Karlblom (PR) 9.5, 4. Molly Meehan (Jacobs) 9.45, 5. Caleigh Pistorius (MS) 9.4.
Uneven bars: 1. Baars (PR) 9.5, 2. Nicole Kane (Rolling Meadows) 9.45, 3. Maddy Kim (PR) 9.425, 4. Ashley Diaz (Barrington) 9.325, 5. Jessica Saul (MS) 9.25.
Balance beam: 1. Baars (PR) 9.5, 2. Mackenzie Kamysz (Hersey) 9.4765, 3. Bailey Bloom (Con) 9.375, 4. Pistorius (MS) 9.275, 5. Abby Amato (Pal) 9.225.
Floor exercise: 1. Baars (PR) 9.625, 2. Meyrich (Con) 9.5, 3. Abby Moran (Fremd) 9.45, 4. Karlblom (PR) 9.375, 5. Pistorius (MS) 9.35.
All-around: 1. Baars (PR) 38.4, 2. Pistorius (MS) 36.95, 3. Meyrich (Con) 36.925, 4. Karlblom (PR) 36.9, 5. Amato (Pal) 36.525.