Prairie Ridge co-op knows the challenge of reaching the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Meet as a team may be the toughest it has been in eight years and that its margin of error is extremely slim.
But the Wolves, who can chase their eighth consecutive state team trophy next week, have two factors in their favor when they head to the Conant Sectional at 6 p.m. Thursday – hope and talent.
“We’ve been there before,” Prairie Ridge coach Lee Battaglia said. “We know what it’s like. They can be right there if these kids go out and do their routines. We’re going to be in the running, no doubt.”
Prairie Ridge co-op, which draws athletes from Prairie Ridge, Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central and Crystal Lake South, scored 142.325 to win the Hoffman Estates Regional last Monday, a low score by Wolves’ standards. It likely will require more to win the Conant Sectional as a team and assure itself a spot in the eight-team field for the state meet. The four sectional winners automatically advance, then the next four highest team scores from sectionals are at-large qualifiers.
Prairie Ridge won three consecutive team state titles, then took second to Glenbard West last year.
“It would be really, really great for us,” freshman Gracie Willis said. “It’s a whole new lineup this year. We’ve surprised ourselves and other people. It would prove to ourselves that we are really good, and we’re better than we first thought we would be.”
Willis, freshman Sydney Hallsten and senior Maddy Kim, the defending uneven bars state champion, finished 1-2-3 in the regional all-around. They all should advance to state as individuals.
The questions come with the fourth score to count on each event. Battaglia, who coaches at Crystal Lake Gymnastics Training Center where the team works out, said Morgan Quinn and Haylee Yelle, who both came back after a year away from gymnastics, are getting better by the day.
“If I had another month with them, it would be a different outcome,” he said. “They have the ability to perform at a high level, we just are running out of time. Every day they are improving and improving.”
Katie McEnery, a holdover from last year with Kim, also has made strides.
“She has been working her tail off,” Battaglia said. “She is going to be a key ingredient as to where we place. She’s that fourth score.”
Kim’s health will be the big question this week after she suffered a nasty fall on her balance beam dismount. While doing a back aerial before her dismount, she was off and landed with her left foot slamming to the bare floor.
“I fell on my left side, and it pushed everything together,” Kim said. “It’s kind of frustrating [to happen] right now because sectionals is pretty big for us, as a team, to qualify for state. We need all the scores we can get to have a shot. I’m just hoping I’ll be better next week.”
Battaglia is concerned. He said Kim worked out a bit Friday.
“That’s something that’s unknown,” Battaglia said. “Maddy’s going to give you her all. We have that [injury] working against us. I hope she’s full strength.”
Hallsten, like Willis, watched the older girls at CLGTC who competed for Prairie Ridge and won state titles. Now, she gets her chance to be a part of that.
“I really hope we can make it [as a team],” Hallsten said. “Last meet was not a good representation of how good we are as a team. We’ve done much better in the past, and regional was such an ‘off’ meet for us. I’m really hoping we can hit what we need and make it to state.”