PALATINE – What Prairie Ridge’s girls gymnastics team accomplished was remarkable.
Rachael Underwood, one of the state’s best gymnasts, had a subpar performance Friday in the girls gymnastics state meet preliminaries. The team’s other star, Riley Mahoney, missed the state series with a knee injury.
And yet the Wolves, a co-op team that draws competitors from Prairie Ridge, Cary-Grove and Crystal Lake Central, brought home the second-place trophy for the second straight year.
It was a testament to the depth about which coach Lee Battaglia has spoken all season.
Prairie Ridge will wonder what could have been had Underwood hit her routines and Mahoney was healthy. Perhaps the Wolves (148.85) could have dethroned defending champ Lyons Township, which again was on top of its game with 151.275.
They also might wonder what might happen a year from now with almost every girl coming back (only senior Sarah Kramer graduates), including Mahoney, a junior who could be one of the top all-around gymnasts in the state.
But mainly they can celebrate what is. Underwood rallied back with an individual state title in vault Saturday. And there were clutch performances turned in by Kendall Rumford, Dylann Perrone and Jada Berkland on Friday. Rumford was sixth in all-around, Perrone was 10th, Maddie Solka was 11th and Underwood was 13th.
Even with Underwood’s frustrating night, the Wolves finished well ahead of Fremd (146.675) for second place.
“We have one of our highest team scores,” said Underwood, a junior. “I’m really proud of how far we’ve come without Riley. Next year we’ll be stronger and even better.”
Battaglia, who coaches the Prairie Ridge girls with his Crystal Lake Gymnastics Training Center team in club, knows it was just one of those meets for Underwood, who usually is as consistent as they come.
“I felt so bad for [Underwood],” Battaglia said. “She held our team together so many times. Jada, Kendall and Dylann put it all together and had the meets of their lives. Rachael’s been our leader all year.”
The club season will start soon and Underwood will compete at Level 10, the top level, and thrive. The college recruitment process will intensify for her and for Mahoney.
Mahoney recently underwent surgery to tighten ligaments and repair the meniscus in her right knee. She’ll return to the gym soon and work on pull-ups, handstand push-ups and on the uneven bars, anything that will not require her legs.
She expects to be back ready for full workouts in 4 1/2 months.
“That’s the plan, rehabbing and getting myself better,” Mahoney said. “I’m not looking at next year now, I just want to get on with rehab. I’m so proud of them. They pulled it together and did what they needed to do. I’m proud of each and every one of them for what they did [Friday] night.”
It was remarkable, and next year could be even better.
• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.