High school girls gymnastics: Prairie Ridge co-op eager for state run

Prairie Ridge co-op's Gracie Willis stretches during gymnastics practice at Crystal Lake Gymnastics Training Center on Monday in Crystal Lake.
Prairie Ridge co-op's Gracie Willis stretches during gymnastics practice at Crystal Lake Gymnastics Training Center on Monday in Crystal Lake.

Katie McEnery was a freshman on Prairie Ridge’s last girls gymnastics state championship team three years ago.

McEnery, a senior at Crystal Lake South, was a sophomore in 2018 when the Wolves, a co-op team with the four District 155 schools, finished as runner-up.

She was on the team again last year when injuries played a major part in the Wolves failing to earn a state trophy (top-three finish) for the first time in eight years.

“It would mean a lot [to get another trophy],” McEnery said. “It would be really cool my senior year to be able to feel how well we did with people I’m close with because we’ve been working out together for years.”

A state trophy seems like a strong possibility for Prairie Ridge coach Lee Battaglia’s group. Another state championship is a realistic expectation given the Wolves’ depth and level of talent. Battaglia has four girls – sophomores Gracie Willis and Sydney Hallsten, along with freshmen Gabby Riley and Paige Magel – who will compete at Level 10 in club this year for the Crystal Lake Gymnastics Training Center. He has never had that before with Prairie Ridge.

Prairie Ridge opened its season by winning the Glenbard West Invitational on Saturday with 144.45 points. New Trier was second at 142.95. Battaglia takes it easy early in the season, using the girls in a couple of events in early meets before placing them in all four.

“We have the most talented [high school] team [I’ve had],” Battaglia said. “I didn’t say best team, but most talented team. There’s a lot more that has to go with the talent. This year, we are way deeper with numbers. It’s a blessing. If someone was to get hurt, we can replenish the stock, which is nice.”

Prairie Ridge, which also draws athletes from Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central and Crystal Lake South, took third in 2011, then had two runner-up state finishes, then captured three state team titles. The Wolves were runners-up again in 2018.

Willis finished fifth in the all-around at the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State Meet last year and third on balance team.

“This year is so much more dynamic,” Willis said. “We have almost everyone who can compete on vault and get above a [Level] 9. We can put anyone in and they will do well. If we stay healthy and consistent we can do very, very well.”

Hallsten’s scores often were on the same level as Willis’.

“We have pretty similar girls to last year except Maddy Kim [ who graduated],” Hallsten said. “Now we have the freshmen and can fill spots we couldn’t fill last year. They’re so talented.”

Riley and Magel watched the high school team while they were coming through middle school. They are eager to be a part.

“Our team is pretty solid,” Magel said. “I’m excited to join because everybody says it’s a lot more fun than club gymnastics. You’re working as a team [in high school] and get to cheer each other on, where as club it’s more all to yourself. I’m excited to have that experience.”

Riley agreed.

“Everybody says it’s a lot more fun,” she said. “There’s a lot more cheering, and you get to be more free.”

Kim, the veteran of last year’s team, suffered a hip injury in the regional and tried to battle through it, but it threw off her training and the Wolves did not advance as a team. Junior Morgan Quinn also suffered a knee injury last year that was critical to Prairie Ridge’s team chances.

“They have to come through and hit [their routines],” Battaglia said. “If they do what they’re supposed to do, their routines are a whole other level with what they’ve been throwing. They are very, very talented.”

On Saturday, Hallsten won the vault with a 9.7, with Willis, Riley and Magel tying for third at 9.5. Hallsten and Magel tied for first on the uneven bars at 9.6. Willis was fourth (9.15) on balance beam and Hallsten was second (9.35) in floor exercise.

Here is the roster of Prairie Ridge’s gymnastics team, a co-op between Prairie Ridge, Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central and Crystal Lake South.

Athlete, Year, School

Audrey Burke, Crystal Lake South, fr.

Sydney Hallsten, Cary-Grove, so.

Sophia Krcik, Prairie Ridge, so.

Paige Magel, Prairie Ridge, fr.

Katie McEnery, Crystal Lake South, sr.

Teegan Perrone, Cary-Grove, jr.

Morgan Quinn, Prairie Ridge, jr.

Gabby Riley, Cary-Grove, fr.

Gracie Willis, Prairie Ridge, so.

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