Gymnastics

High school gymnastics: Prairie Ridge co-op's Willis wins 3 state medals

PALATINE – Prairie Ridge co-op freshman Gracie Willis completed one of her best balance beam routines of the season and was rewarded accordingly.

Willis received a 9.35 to take third place on beam at the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Meet on Saturday in Palatine, one of her three medals for the weekend. She also scored 9.55 to tie for fourth on vault and had 37.675 in Friday’s all-around competition for fifth place.

“Gracie’s been competing for probably nine years, she’s a performer,” Wolves coach Lee Battaglia said. “We’re looking for a lot of bright things from her.”

Willis missed a medal in floor exercise, where she scored 9.45 to finish seventh. Two competitors narrowly finished ahead of Willis at 9.475 to tie for fifth.

Freshman Sydney Hallsten also qualified for the vault finals and scored 9.125 to finish ninth.

“Overall, it went really well,” Willis said. “It was very stressful, a very different environment, but I’m very thankful for the opportunity to come here and compete with Sydney and Maddy [Kim]. I had a great time, and I’m just really grateful for it.”

Willis, who attends Prairie Ridge, performed a Yurchenko layout for her vault, a round-off onto a springboard, then a back flip off the vault. She scored 9.55, then tried adding a full twist on her second vault, but fell.

“The full didn’t go well in warmups, so I really don’t know what I was expecting there,” Willis said. “The layout got me the 9.55 and the medal.”

Willis then went to floor and finished on balance beam. She was the first beam competitor after a short delay when a fire alarm went off and the gymnasium was cleared for 10 minutes.

“I could have done better on floor, but it was a solid routine,” Willis said. “Beam was one of my best routines of this season. I didn’t wobble very much, and it got me third place.”

Hallsten, who attends C-G, scored 9.55 on vault in Friday’s preliminaries, a score that would have given her a medal (top five) Saturday. She came up short on both her landings.

“I under-rotated, then I came up short on the second one, too, it wasn’t good,” said Hallsten, who had the third-highest all-around score from the four sectional meets. “I did worse than yesterday. I’m disappointed, but it happen. It was pretty fun [at state]. I enjoyed it.”

Kim was there cheering on the freshmen after finishing her high school career Friday, when she took eighth all-around with 37.05. Kim spent the past two weeks battling through a hip injury she suffered at the Hoffman Estates Regional. She hit the wood floor on her balance beam dismount, which limited her practice the past two weeks.

Battaglia was frustrated for Kim, who continued to compete despite the injury, but fell on her uneven bars routine at the Conant Sectional and, thus, was unable to defend her state title in that event. On Monday, Kim thought she had a small hip fracture and was out of the state meet, but another medical specialist later diagnosed the injury as a bone bruise and said she could compete.

Kim, a Prairie Ridge student, scored 9.525 on her beam routine for the all-around competition Friday, which would have qualified for Saturday's finals.

“Maddy wasn’t able to prepare for sectional,” Battaglia said. “She went out and had the mishap on bars (a fall) at sectional. She was strong enough to win beam. She did well on everything [Friday].”

STAR OF THE MEET

Gracie Willis, Prairie Ridge, freshman

Willis took third in balance beam (9.35) and tied for fourth on vault (9.55) after taking fifth in the all-around (37.675), which completed on Friday.

THE NUMBER

14: Glenbard West’s Maddie Diab scored 38.55 in Friday’s all-around competition, which ties Prairie Ridge’s Rachael Underwood (2013) for the 14th-best score ever.

AND ANOTHER THING...

DeKalb’s Maddie Hickey won the floor exercise, preventing Diab from becoming the fifth girl to win all-around and all four individual events in the same year. After the meet, Hickey was being interviewed while holding a copy of Prairie Ridge senior Maddy Kim’s book “The Greatest Guide to Prom” behind her back.

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