Created:Monday, February 4, 2013 11:43 p.m.CDT
Updated:Monday, February 4, 2013 11:55 p.m.CDT
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Prairie Ridge co-op gymnasts win sectional, head to state

Prairie Ridge co-op's Rachael Underwood competes in floor exercise during Monday's Fremd Sectional in Palatine. Underwood was fifth in the all-around to qualify for state. (Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com)

PALATINE – Jada Berkland’s lower back issues limited what she could do in her freshman season with Prairie Ridge’s gymnastics team.

The sophomore is making up for it this year.

Berkland finished third in the all-around, between teammates Riley Mahoney (second) and Rachael Underwood (fifth), Monday night at the Fremd Sectional as the Wolves scored 149.525 points. That score further established Prairie Ridge’s co-op team, which draws athletes from Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central and Prairie Ridge, as the favorite in the state meet Feb. 15 and 16 at Palatine.

Fremd was second with 146.225.

“I like that score,” Berkland said. “We did a lot better than we did at the regional. This is what we worked for.”

St. Edward’s Abby Madden won all-around at 37.95, followed by Mahoney (37.625), Berkland (37.15), Elk Grove’s Amelia Rafferty (37.125) and Underwood (37.050). All five qualify to compete in the all-around at state.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Berkland said. “I never thought I’d be going to state in all-around.”

Wolves coach Lee Battaglia is not surprised.

“I expect that from Jada,” he said. “She should be right up there. She’s good.”

Underwood fell on her floor exercise routine when she over-rotated on a flip with a double twist on her first tumbling pass. She also fell on her beam routine, but she won the vault and uneven bars.

Mahoney missed on her Genger on the bars, a move where she lets go of the bar, twists and regrabs the bar. Underwood was third at state in all-around last year and Mahoney was sixth. Battaglia figures the Wolves’ team score could have topped 151 without the falls.

Still, Prairie Ridge showed its depth with four automatic state qualifiers – freshman Maddie Solka was second on bars – and could have two more at-large competitors. Savanna Mensching (beam) and Dylann Perrone (vault) could be among the top 12 non-qualifying scores (top five) when the sectionals are completed Thursday.

Jacobs sophomore Ali Riedel started the night well with third in the vault (9.725) but ended horribly when she sprained her right ankle on her first tumbling pass in the floor exercise. It was uncertain if Riedel will be able to recover in time for state.

Prairie Ridge was much happier with its performance Tuesday than at last week’s Conant Regional.

“That’s a great score,” Mahoney said. “I’d rather us have some jitters here and regionals than next week. We definitely did a lot better – that was our goal.”

Battaglia is confident Mahoney and Underwood will be in top form at state.

“They usually don’t miss,” he said. “They did about what I expected tonight [as a team]. They’ll be all right. I’ll give them a day off tomorrow. And we’re all healthy.”

The same cannot be said for Riedel, who qualified in vault and floor exercise last year. She was heading home, then to the hospital for X-rays on her ankle. She sat for almost a half hour in an ice bucket and had swelling on the top of her foot.

Riedel had struggled with her bars and beam routines, but hoped to pull it together and advance in floor.

“I was doing a double pike [back flip] on my first pass and I felt my hand slip off my leg,” she said. “I would definitely say it wasn’t my day. Bars was a disaster, I don’t even know what happened. I was definitely hoping for a good floor routine. At first, I thought I’d get up and keep going, but that wasn’t going to happen.”