High school girls gymnastics: Prairie Ridge eyes 3rd straight state championship

There are a couple of things Prairie Ridge knows heading into the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Meet on Friday and Saturday at Palatine High School.

First, the Wolves almost certainly will bring home one of the top-two trophies. Second, if they can stay on the balance beam, their chances of that trophy being for a state title (for a third consecutive year) jump exponentially.

DeKalb scored higher in last week’s Glenbard North Sectional than Prairie Ridge did at Fremd. The Barbs also beat Prairie Ridge by 35-hundredths of a point in a December invitational. But the Wolves’ Nikki Baars was their only competitor not to fall last week, and if even two more girls stay on, that would push the team score up by one whole point.

The state meet starts at 2 p.m. Friday, with the qualifying for the four events – vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise – completed Friday. The all-around winner also is determined Friday.

The 2 p.m. finals Saturday will determine the winners in each of the four events, and team scores also can improve.

Prairie Ridge, a co-op team drawing athletes from Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South and Prairie Ridge, won state each of the past two years. DeKalb, a co-op team with girls from DeKalb and Sycamore, was the runner-up last year.

Wolves coach Lee Battaglia is confident the Wolves can be successful on the beam.

“That’s the hardest event, no doubt,” Battaglia said. “They’ve done it before this year; they’ve gone 38, 5 for 5. When they don’t come through with it, it’s frustrating, because they’re capable of it. It’s not that we’re trying to hit these routines, they have hit these beam routines.”

Baars won the all-around with her career-best score (38.4) and won all four events at the Fremd Sectional. She was third in all-around last year and should challenge DeKalb’s Aleah Leman and Glenbard West’s Maddie Diab for the all-around championship.

Leman and Diab tied for all-around last week at 38.675. Diab is the defending all-around state champion.

“That energy I had, I can probably bring more,” Baars said. “There probably will be more because it’s state and it’s more fun and everyone’s screaming for everyone. There’s a lot of energy on the floor with us.”

Battaglia expects big things from Baars this week.

“I’m not worried about her,” he said. “She can definitely carry that into this week. I’m sure she’ll bring it.”

What the Wolves need for another state title are solid performances from Kira Karlblom, Maddy Kim, Clancy Raupp and Alyssa Petko, particularly on beam, where each fall is a half-point deduction.

“We defnitely need to improve on beam,” Karlblom said. “We’ll probably do some more pressure starts to get the atmosphere of what state’s going to be like. If we nail everything, I think we’ll be good.”

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