The list of accomplishments Maddy Kim compiled in 2018 is remarkable.
Kim won the uneven bars title at the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Meet.
A video of Kim falling into the front row of seats from her freshman year at the state meet made it onto “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
She ran a half-marathon at Disney World, even though she is not a runner. Her mother, Olivia, is, and they ran through the park, stopping along the route to take pictures with various characters.
Then, Kim attended Prairie Ridge’s prom for the first time and, after an awkward and unfulfilling weekend, she wrote a book about it.
On top of all that, the 17-year-old Prairie Ridge senior maintained a 4.7 weighted GPA, which is why Olivia said, “She is so self-motivated that it doesn’t faze me when she tells me she’s going to be accomplishing something new.”
Kim ranks the state championship at the top of that list. “People don’t normally do that every day,” she said, laughing.
Although people don’t normally write and self-publish a book every day either, especially when they just finished their junior year of high school. “The Greatest Guide to Prom” is 132 pages of witty, funny and valuable insight geared toward helping prom-goers have the best experience possible.
The book, which Kim published on Amazon, has sold about 180 copies since it came out in November. She wrote it in June and asked Prairie Ridge English teacher Jessica Fetzner to read and edit it before she published, paying Fetzner in homemade cookies for her effort.
“People really like it,” Kim said. “They thought it was funny and relatable. And they were impressed.”
Almost everything Maddy Kim does is impressive.
JOINING A POWERHOUSE
Three years ago, Kim and Kira Karlblom were two major additions to the Prairie Ridge co-op gymnastics team, which won the state team title the year before. Kim and Karlblom had competed together at Crystal Lake Gymnastics Training Center for coach Lee Battaglia’s teams as long as they could remember.
The Wolves, whom Battaglia also coaches, were made up of CLGTC girls and won two more state titles with Kim and Karlblom. Only last year did Glenbard West finally stop Prairie Ridge’s streak at three consecutive titles.
Although her team came up just short, taking second, Kim, who had finished fifth on bars as a sophomore, won the title with a 9.6. She added a blind pirouette on the final swing before her dismount, a maneuver in which she stops at the top of the swing and walks a full turn on her hands, then swings one more revolution and dismounts.
“She’s such a different person,” Battaglia said. “When she has to face stuff that challenges her, she succeeds. She will not accept failure. She is one of the most driven kids I have seen.”
Driven. It’s a word Olivia uses to describe her daughter, as well.
“She didn’t even tell us in the beginning that she was going to write a book,” Olivia said. “It was something she felt compelled to do, something she really wanted to do on her own. She knew nothing about publishing a book, she had no funds, she had to learn all on her own how to do it. When we found out she was writing a book, she was almost done. When she actually puts it in her mind to do something, that girl goes all the way.”
Kim was thrilled for the chance to attend prom for the first time. As she writes in her book, prom is a chance for girls to feel like a princess. As she also writes in the book, those expectations often are unrealistic.
“When it didn’t happen, my dreams were crushed a little bit, but I decided I might as well make something out of it,” Kim said.
A friend suggested that since Kim’s prom experience was a dud, she should write a book about it. Another friend said, “You’re not actually going to do it.”
Of course she was.
Kim started writing late in her junior year. She said it wasn’t that difficult, more like writing in a journal. Her research about details with prom – everything from dress to shoes to hair to nails to makeup – is quite thorough. And her sense of humor shows through.
“Tip #11: I Moustache You a Question,” is how she starts the section on removing unwanted facial hair. She goes through five methods for doing that.
When she addresses types of dates, there are 10, including “The Dream Date,” “The Hot Guy,” “The Popular Guy,” “The Dancer,” “The Clinger” and others, with descriptions and pros and cons of each.
She goes into minute details about buying dresses, setting up hair and nail appointments, purchasing tickets, arranging seating with friends and taking pictures.
For Kim, the pictures are the best part because “Everyone is dressed up
and gorgeous. Prom pictures are just the best and most amazing pictures you’ll have until your wedding.”
Prairie Ridge could have had its top four gymnasts back for this season, but it turned out that Kim is the only one returning. Karlblom is doing cheerleading at Prairie Ridge; Ciara Ryan, who has a gymnastics scholarship to Northern Illinois University, recovered from a knee injury and is preparing for her college career; and Clancy Raupp stepped away because of an injury.
Kim has been fortunate to avoid injuries during her career, while overcoming the mental aspects of the sport. Battaglia said gymnasts of Kim’s proficiency, she is a Level 10 in club competition, can struggle with maintaining skills.
“It’s hard to understand for people who have not coached or been at that level of gymnastics,” Battaglia said. “You have to do it every day. The mind goes away. When the mind goes away, the skill goes away. It’s like, ‘I can’t do this anymore. Why is this skill leaving me? It’s not fair, I could do this before. Why is it leaving me?’ The tears come down and they wouldn’t want to fight to get it back. She’s maintained it. She makes sure she maintains so that doesn’t come. She’s an amazing kid.”
IT’S FUNNY NOW
As a freshman, Kim dealt with some adversity in the state meet. Teammate Kendall Rumford suffered a torn ACL on her balance beam routine, and Kim had to step in for the floor exercise. She had not even warmed up on her routine because she expected Rumford would be doing it.
“Lee was like, ‘OK, Maddy, you’re up on floor,’ ” Kim said. “I was like, ‘OK. My God, what am I doing?’ ”
On a tumbling pass, Kim lost her balance and wound up in a woman’s lap in the first row of the bleachers. Two years later, shortly after Kim won her state title, the video made it to “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
“It was funny,” she said. “It’s a good memory though.”
Something unfortunate was turned into something positive, just like with her prom book.
Kim is the oldest of Alex and Olivia Kim’s four children. Alex is an otolaryngologist with Affiliated ENT, and Olivia is a neonatologist with Onsite Neonatal Partners.
Their son, Luke, is 15 and a sophomore soccer player at Prairie Ridge. They have another daughter, Emma, who is 9, and another son, Austin, who is 5.
Emma was adopted from China when she was 2 1/2 years old. Alex and Olivia went to China with Maddy and Luke to meet Emma, who suffered from a complex heart defect and went through three open-heart surgeries. She is doing fine today and enjoying cheerleading.
Austin has Down syndrome but is one of the happiest little boys anyone will ever meet. He will grab hands and smile at people he just met.
The idea of Maddy and Olivia running the half-marathon together came two years ago when they found the charity Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome. Maddy had to raise $1,000 to do the race with her mom; she raised $3,000. They will run together again this spring.
Kim has been accepted to several Midwest schools and is leaning toward a major in the business or medical field. She is uncertain whether she will pursue gymnastics beyond high school.
Kim wanted to help others by offering prom tips. She thought she could help guide them toward having a more memorable and enjoyable prom experience.
“The hardest part now is trying to get word out and get people to buy it,” she said.
The paperback is available online for $12. It also can be purchased at CLGTC, and Olivia said her daughter was contacting local stores that do business for proms about selling it there.
Kim looks forward to using her own prom advice and feeling like one of the Disney princesses she sees with Olivia in Orlando each year.
“Expectations are still high,” Kim said. “But because last year’s prom was bad, it was a success because I wrote a book about it. It’s OK if it doesn’t go as great as I want it to because I got so much out of the first prom.”
• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.