Riverside-Brookfield High School sophomore Lia Christiansen was literally down to her last legitimate chance of reaching her first girls gymnastics state meet.
Christiansen’s first of two pike Tsukahara vaults had the height and the power. Too much power. Christiansen over-rotated and fell backwards onto the landing mat.
“I was kind of like, ‘This is it, all or nothing. I’ve just got to do it and stick it,’” Christiansen said. “I thought of opening up a little bit early and spotting something back towards the wall so I could stand up straight and stay on my feet.”
On her second and final try, Christiansen landed cleanly with a step and received a fourth-place 9.325 at the Hinsdale South Sectional Feb. 7 that automatically qualified for the IHSA state preliminaries Feb. 17 in Palatine with a top-five sectional finish.
She’s the first RBHS gymnast to qualify for state since Sam Brown and Becca O’Neal advanced on the uneven parallel bars in 2009.
“I was pushing myself every practice, working really hard on vaults, making sure I could secure a spot at state,” Christiansen said. “I’ve been training them so much and I’m just glad I was able to do them well.”
At last year’s sectional, Christiansen’s 9.05 on floor exercise tied for sixth, .025 points from top five, and missed the 9.125 at-large cut for the 12 highest remaining scores among the four sectionals.
This time, floor was her first sectional event. She tied for 12th (8.875) yet was only 0.05 shy of this year’s 8.925 at-large state cut. Christiansen also tied for 11th in all-around (34.875) and was 29th on uneven parallel bars (8.275).
“We were hoping [she’d qualify]. That was the goal,” RBHS coach Karen Domzalski said. “We’re super excited for her and can’t wait to see her there and be the first in a long time.”
Christiansen said having her strongest events as her first two probably worked to her advantage.
“I wasn’t tired at all for floor and vault. I really got to give it my all,” Christiansen said. “Sometimes I like to see the other competition first to see kind of what I need to do, but it was good the way it happened.”
Also making her second sectional trip, junior Annabel Krueger was 26th on balance beam (8.1) and all-around (32.125). Sophomore Tatiana Hertogs was 35th on beam (7.45).
Behind three 8s, Krueger improved from her 30.175 all-around score at the 2022 sectional.
“Everything was pretty smooth. Everything was solid. I had no big hiccups so overall I was pretty pleased,” Krueger said. “I was definitely more prepared for what it was going to be like and how to do my routines the way I know how to do them, even though there was so much going on.”
Proctor advances to state on floor
Lyons Township High School freshman Carli Proctor is headed to the IHSA state gymnastics meet in Palatine this weekend after her 11th-place 8.95 on floor exercise at the Hinsdale South Sectional on Feb. 7 beat the 8.925 at-large cut for the 12 highest scores from the four sectionals that did not earn top-five finishes.
Proctor is the Lions’ first state competitor since Olivia Kalata in 2018. The Lions (134.075 points) finished sixth in their first sectional team trip since 2017.
“I wasn’t really thinking about it because I wasn’t really expecting to go to state this year,” Proctor said. “I’m just looking forward to doing my routine. There’s nothing after it so there’s nothing to lose.”
Proctor loves her floor routine choreographed by Bojana “Bo” Vujisic from Flying High Gymnastics Club but nearly didn’t compete the routine at regionals because of an ankle injury.
She ended up winning regionals with a 9.35 – a season best by .15. If she hadn’t qualified for sectionals, whatever floor score she got competing for the team wouldn’t have gotten her to state individually.
“I’m just really happy that I decided to do it and just proud of myself,” Proctor said.
At her third sectional, senior Annmarie Holmes tied for 12th on balance beam (8.625), which had an 8.9 at-large state cut, and was 14th on floor (8.825).