High school gymnastics: Prairie Ridge co-op's Kim wins state title in uneven bars

Ryan ties for second in vault; Karlblom ties for fourth in floor exercise

PALATINE – Prairie Ridge junior Maddy Kim was overcome with emotion as one competitor after another greeted her with hugs.

Tears of joy streamed down her cheeks as the reality that she was the uneven bars state champion set in.

“I’m so emotional. I look and see (former Prairie Ridge gymnasts) Maddie Solka and Nikki (Baars) win bars [at state in past years] and I thought, ‘Oh, I’m never going to be good enough for that,’ ” Kim said. “But I am. It’s definitely a confidence booster for life in general and gymnastics also.”

Kim added a skill near the end of her routine and scored 9.6 to win bars, edging Glenbard West’s Maddie Diab (9.55) in the individual event finals Saturday at the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Meet in Palatine.

Prairie Ridge’s Ciara Ryan tied for second in vault (9.625), and Kira Karlblom tied for fourth on floor exercise (9.55), giving all three Wolves’ competitors state finals medals.

“When they get into pressure situations, the day of a finals, they usually do really well,” Prairie Ridge coach Lee Battaglia said. “All of them did really good.”

Prairie Ridge, a co-op team that draws athletes from Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South and Prairie Ridge, saw its string of state team titles end at three. Glenbard West scored 150.05 to win, with the Wolves second at 149.1.

Kim, who placed fifth on bars last year, added a blind pirouette just before her double-back-flip dismount. On her third swing around the high bar, she shifted her hands to make a complete turn.

“In club, that’s a bonus. I was really nervous for that because I’ve only done that in a meet a couple times, but I was happy with how it turned out,” Kim said. “It’s a more difficult move, and I think I did it well. It definitely made me stand out.”

Before her routine, Kim made a big “X” in chalk on the landing mat, as she has done for years. She then landed one of the best bars sets of her career.

“I worked so hard this whole season, and bars has always been my favorite event to do,” Kim said. “When I’m having a bad day, I love bars and go do my bars routine. I’m so happy. All my hard work paid off. And I’m so happy for the other competitors and how they did.”

Battaglia said the plan all along was to add the blind pirouette if Kim made the finals.

“It doesn’t surprise me; she’s a good bars worker,” Battaglia said. “She has nice body lines and everything. I’m definitely happy for her, but I wasn’t surprised. I knew Maddy’s capable of that.”

Ryan took third in all-around, which was completed after Friday’s individual event preliminaries, at 37.9. She came back and scored one-tenth better on her vault Saturday to tie for second.

“Instead of the tuck [on a flip], I tried to do a pike, and it ended up working in my favor,” Ryan said. “We did that little fix and it ended up working out pretty well. I’m really proud of the way I performed this weekend, redeeming myself from sectionals on bars and beam during the all-around and team finals. I was proud to come back and get better scores.”

Karlblom qualified for three finals events and repeated as a medalist in floor exercise.

“I thought it was the best [routine] I could do,” Karlblom said. “I had fun, looked at the judges a lot and did my routine. My landings were a lot better.”

Battaglia thought Karlblom had a strong state meet.

“That floor routine was the best she can throw,” he said. “I’m really, really proud of her 100 percent. She had a great meet. She just had that one fall [on balance beam] that cost her fourth place all-around, but that’s how it goes.”

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