LAKE FOREST – Three falls on the balance beam ultimately did not matter.
Neither did coming up short against defending state champion Lyons Township.
What really weighed on the mind of Prairie Ridge’s co-op gymnastics team was the injury to Riley Mahoney that occurred early in Saturday’s inaugural Robin Straus Gymnastics Invitational at Lake Forest’s East Campus.
Mahoney injured her right knee on the third tumbling pass during her floor exercise routine, which was the Wolves’ first event. Although Prairie Ridge still had some strong performances, the athletes could not help but think about long-term prospects for a team that could win a state title.
“It put us under a lot of pressure and, in some way, it was too much pressure and we started to crumble a little bit,” said Rachael Underwood, who won the vault and uneven bars and placed second in the all-around. “We hope to get her back for state. She helps us a lot.”
Mahoney, with ice on her knee, left the meet early with her parents (Pat and Tracy) to go to the hospital for examination. Wolves coach Lee Battaglia thought the injury might be similar to one Mahoney suffered three weeks previous when her kneecap popped in and out of place on a landing.
“It’s very, very loose with the ligaments and stuff,” Battaglia said. “There’s really nothing you can do other than resting it. She nailed the double pike (flip on the first tumbling pass). She’s practiced great. She looked so good.”
Lyons won the meet with 150.45 points, while Prairie Ridge scored 146.075 without Mahoney. Underwood won the vault (9.85), the uneven bars (9.7) and was third in floor exercise (9.6). She placed third all-around at 37.75 after two falls on the balance beam.
“I was doing pretty well; I was pretty consistent,” said Underwood, who was celebrating her 17th birthday with several family members and friends at the meet. “I let it slip away from my fingers (on beam). Better to happen now than at state or regional or sectional.”
Prairie Ridge sophomore Maddie Solka was fourth in all-around (37.6) and second on floor exercise (9.65) and fourth on bars (9.4).
“I tried to use positive energy,” Solka said. “On beam, I thought I was done, and I just had the fall. It’s not the end of the world. We were all pretty pumped up, we were looking forward to some good competition, especially Lyons. We started off pretty happy, then it was …”
Battaglia told Mahoney to leave with her parents and get the knee checked by a doctor. She was visibly upset as she left the gym.
Prairie Ridge, which draws athletes from Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central and Prairie Ridge, was state team runner-up last year and placed third in 2012. The Wolves have an even deeper team this year and hoped to compete for the state title.
Now, they are just hoping one of their stars can return by the time regional meets are held in early February.
“Now, it’s a downer,” Battaglia said. “We definitely need [Mahoney]. Her and Rachael are the two powers with their scores. There’s no way we can beat Lyons without Riley. No way.”