High school gymnastics: Prairie Ridge co-op defends title at Lake Forest's Straus Invitational, takes first place for four consecutive year

LAKE FOREST – Prairie Ridge co-op gymnast Ciara Ryan is enjoying her first season of high school gymnastics.

And the Wolves are thrilled to have Ryan on their team.

Ryan, a Crystal Lake South junior, won the vault and uneven bars at Lake Forest’s Straus Invitational on Saturday to help Prairie Ridge co-op to its fourth consecutive team title at the meet.

Ryan and teammate Maddy Kim tied for second in the all-around, as the Wolves took first with 147.95 points, the highest team score recorded in the state this season. Carmel (144.875) was second.

“It’s really fun, and it’s really exciting to compete more with the team,” Ryan said. “Everyone’s so nice and welcoming. It’s been a great experience so far.”

Had Ryan not fallen on the balance beam, she would have won the all-around. Wheaton-Warrenville South’s Jamie LaBue (37.65) won that honor, with Ryan and Kim at 37.525. Prairie Ridge’s Kira Karlblom was fifth at 36.825.

Prairie Ridge co-op draws athletes from Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South and Prairie Ridge and has won three consecutive state team titles. The Lake Forest Invitational is what Wolves coach Lee Battaglia considers their top meet of the regular season.

“I was happy with what I saw,” Battaglia said. “There’s obviously room for improvement, which is good. What I tell the girls is, ‘Your job is to hit four events.’ That’s it. Right now, we didn’t all hit four events. That’s what we need to do.”

Battaglia was not concerned, especially with Ryan, who scored 9.7 to win balance beam and 9.6 to win vault.

“[Bars] were phenomenal,” he said. “We’ve only had a few meets, but that was clearly her best routine. That’s a tough set.”

Ryan started her bars off the high bar swinging toward the low bar and releasing as she swung upward, then grabbing the bar on her way down.

“I was really proud of myself for catching my first release,” Ryan said. “It’s one of my hardest elements of my routine, and just making it really got me excited. Just hitting for my team and contributing to our all-around score made me really happy.”

Ryan switched from Huntley Unlimited Gymastics School to Battaglia’s Crystal Lake Gymnastics Training Center this year, then decided to join the high school team. She is a Level 10 club gymnast and has committed to Northern Illinois University on an athletic scholarship.

Kim was second on bars, third on beam and fifth on vault after a solid week of practice.

“I surprised myself,” Kim said. “Every day was a consistent day, and I was kind of nervous because I hadn’t messed up. I was like, ‘What if the meet’s my mess-up?’ I got superstitious, I hadn’t fallen [on beam] all week. This was the first meet where I stuck everything in practice, and I stuck on the beam.”

Karlblom won the floor exercise at 9.425 and was fourth on bars and vault. Katarine Schaffer scored 9.4 on beam to take fourth.

“That’s how she does beam at home usually,” Prairie Ridge assistant coach Lisa Rumford said. “We get here and that’s a really tricky series, one of the most difficult series around.”

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