Gymnastics

High school girls gymnastics: Prairie Ridge co-op goes for 4th state championship

Sophomore all-around qualifier will try to lead Prairie Ridge co-op to 4th state team title

Prairie Ridge co-op's Gracie Willis reacts after her dismount on the balance beam during the Schaumburg Sectional on Feb. 12 in Schaumburg.
Prairie Ridge co-op's Gracie Willis reacts after her dismount on the balance beam during the Schaumburg Sectional on Feb. 12 in Schaumburg.

Prairie Ridge co-op girls gymnastics coach Lee Battaglia is convinced that sophomore Gracie Willis is poised for a big bounce back.

Willis bobbled on her uneven bars dismount, fell off the balance beam and missed the landing on both of her vaults at last week’s Schaumburg Sectional.

Still, Willis finished fourth in the all-around at 37.0, and the Wolves’ co-op team, which draws athletes from Prairie Ridge, Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central and Crystal Lake South, had no problem recording the highest score from the state’s four sectional meets at 149.325.

“Gracie was the one who had a rough meet,” Battaglia said. “She’s better than that, and she’ll show it [at state]. I have all the confidence in the world in her. No doubt. I know she’s going to put it together.”

Prairie Ridge will be the favorite at the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Meet on Friday and Saturday at Palatine. The Wolves, who won state medals in seven consecutive state meets before not qualifying last year, are aiming for their fourth team title.

Competition starts at 2:05 p.m. Friday. The all-around winner and 10 finalists in each of the four events will be determined Friday. Saturday’s finals start at 2:15 p.m. and will determine the five medalists in each of the four events. Team scores can increase with results from the finals.

Prairie Ridge’s Gabby Riley (38.2) had the highest all-around score from the sectional meets, followed by Lake Zurich’s Kayla Bailey (38.1), who also was at Schaumburg. Prairie Ridge’s Sydney Hallsten (37.675) and Willis also will compete in the all-around. Glenbard West’s Anna Diab (37.95), Glenbrook South’s Sheena Graham (37.8) and Carmel’s Isabella Kropiwiec (37.65) had the other top all-around scores.

Riley, Hallsten and Willis, who took fifth in the all-around in last year’s state meet, all could be threats to win the all-around. Willis has some of the best skills in the state, so if she hits her routines, she could be tough to beat.

“I’m pretty disappointed in myself,” Willis said after the sectional meet. “I wanted to be there more for the team. I’m going to go to practice and work as hard as I can. I want to go out next week with everyone all confident and ready to go. I’m going to go in and work on things that need to be fixed and try to improve.”

Lake Zurich’s team score at Schaumburg (148.275) was the second-highest out of the sectionals. No other team in any sectional reached 146.

The Wolves won team titles in 2015, 2016 and 2017, then were runners-up to Glenbard West in 2018. Prairie Ridge made significant improvements from its regional meet and hopes to make another jump this weekend.

“We did really good,” Riley said after winning the team sectional title. “We still haven’t hit our peaking point. We can still do better.”

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