RBHS senior Nora Ford hit a career-high 9.1 on floor exercise at the RB Invite on Jan. 22 and could have a shot at qualifying for the IHSA state meet in that event. Postseason competitions begin Feb. 2. | Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer

Riverside-Brookfield High School senior Nora Ford actually had been thinking about her final home girls gymnastics meet Jan. 22 for a while.

“Really, I just wanted to have fun and make the last home meet really good,” Ford said. “Being a senior, it’s been a long time coming. I’ve just been looking forward to that one meet I’m going to remember for a long time.” 

Ford especially will remember the final routine. 

On her best event, she scored a 9.1 on floor exercise – her first 9 on any event in four varsity seasons – that earned second place at the RB Bulldog Invitational. 

The Bulldogs finished second with a season-high 130.85 points and followed with a 130.55 on Jan. 29 for third at the Upstate Eight Conference Meet at Glenbard East and third in the final overall standings.

Ford’s highest floor score had been 8.9 last season. 

“Going into it, I was a little calm than usual but ready to go, focused,” Ford said. “Once the music started playing, all of the adrenaline and energy rushed into it, made it super fun. The team was cheering and the crowd was really into it so it made it really fun.” 

Ford also was third on balance beam (8.5) at the RB Invite and fourth in the event at the Upstate Eight meet (8.6). 

Ford began gymnastics when she was 5 or 6. Like many RBHS gymnasts, she grew up competing in the feeder program headed by coach Karyn Domzalski.

“I really enjoy that there’s four different events. It’s very difficult mentally and physically but I like the idea that there’s always new things to try,” Ford said.

As a sophomore, Ford qualified for her first sectionals as an all-arounder with the next-to-last advancing score (30.10). 

Disappointed by no IHSA postseason in 2021, Ford hopes to again reach sectionals — especially on floor, where there’s an outside chance a great routine could qualify for the state meet.

“Very outside. But possibly,” Ford said.

From the 2020 sectional berth, Ford realized the need to improve and she decided to emphasize perfecting fundamental skills on floor. 

Last club season, Ford saw the payoff on balance beam when she was second at the GIJO (Gymnastics of Illinois Junior Organization) Level 7 state meet.

“I tried to go back to the basics because there’s only so much you can do if you have the correct technique,” Ford said. “I just barely qualified [for sectionals in 2020]. I felt so lucky, like I didn’t earn it but I get to do this. It just made me more hungry and more ready to compete and get new skills and try harder. It was very eye opening.”

This season immediately began with a new experience. In her seventh season as coach, Domzalski named Ford as the Bulldogs’ first team captain.

Ford received an early-season lift Dec. 4 at Glenbard West when she scored 8.85 on floor. She then worked her way back from spraining her left ankle in mid-December practicing her Tsukahara vault.

Ford also has missed meets that conflict with mandatory performances for the school’s honors choir and dance class. She’s also part of the afterschool Orchesis dance club.

“[Dancing has] helped my floor routine. It’s grown a lot just with artistry,” Ford said. “[Competing floor], I think generally I just like how excited everyone becomes. And when I hit a floor routine, there’s no other feeling.”

Freshman Lia Christiansen was the conference all-around champion (34.80) and was second on beam (8.95), fourth on vault (9.2) and shared fourth on the uneven parallel bars (8.25). At the Bulldog Invite, Christiansen was second in all-around (35.00) and vault (9.05), third on uneven bars (9.2) and fourth on beam (8.45).

RBHS previously marked Senior Night for Ford, Leah Kowalski, Fabiana Aranibar and Remy Hilpp on Jan. 19 when the Bulldogs (128.35) competed against Oswego Co-op (140.30).

The Bulldogs compete in the IHSA regionals at Downers Grove South on Feb. 2 with hopes of advancing to the Oswego Sectional on Feb. 7.