PALATINE – In her penultimate high school event, Madison Hickey took second in the vault at the IHSA state meet Saturday after winning the event last year.
But in her prep finale, the senior posted a 9.7 on floor exercise, a dramatic improvement from her Friday score to not only help move the DeKalb-Sycamore co-op up to fifth in the team standings, but win a state title in the event.
Hickey’s pair of top-two finishes were only half the medal haul for the Barbs, as Maddie Kees took second on the beam and fifth on the floor as the Barbs finished in fifth as a team.
“It feels amazing,” said Hickey, who’s committed to Arkansas. “I’m so proud of myself. To end it with a bang, for my senior year. I can’t wait to see what I can do after high school.”
Hickey’s win on the floor kept Glenbard West’s Maddie Diab from a sweep of the individual events. Diab won the other three events after winning the all around Friday with 38.55. Hickey finished in a tie for second with 38.075.
Hickey entered Saturday with a 9.45 on the floor. Earlier in the day, she took second in the vault with 9.75 to Diab’s 9.8. Last year, Hickey won her first IHSA title in the vault.
“Her vault was a great vault. Her first vault was really good,” coach Andy Morreale said. “But after that she was really champing at the bit for floor.”
Diab went ninth on the floor out of 10 gymnasts. Diab had posted 9.65 – up from her 9.5 on the floor Friday. So Hickey knew the score she needed to beat.
“I was super nervous because I know Maddie Diab is a really good gymnast,” Hickey said. “I thought I did a good routine and I thought it was going to be tight with the scores.”
While Hickey finishes her career with six top-five finishes, Kees starts hers with two.
“I’m really happy,” Kees said. “It’s only freshman year, and that means I still have three more chances to come home with some more hardware. I’m just really happy that my hard work in the gym paid off.”
Kees was second on the beam with 9.425, matching her Friday score.
As did Hickey, Kees added .25 on the floor, finishing with a 9.475 to finish in a three-way tie for fifth.
Kees said she was very confident in her beam routine.
“I know I’m capable of hitting that routine,” Kees said. “That’s what I have to tell myself, then go out there and stay confident and stay calm and show them what I know I can do and project that. When I’m projecting confidence, it shows.”
The two medals were rewarding for Kees, who did not start well in the meet. Starting on bars Friday – her strongest event – she posted an 8.725.
Morreale said it was a tipping point for the freshman, and things could have either gone very well or very poorly.
He said she responded excellently – hitting her next three routines, qualifying in two, and then medaling in both.
Morreale said overcoming a bad routine such as that is the sort of thing that can catapult a gymnast for the next three years, and Kees agreed.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason,” Kees said. “I think that mistake on bars showed me when you have mishaps you’ve just got to work through it. You’ve got to forget about it. I think that mistake helped show me that’s not who I am. It showed me I want to do better than what I showed out there. So it helped me.”
While her prep career has just gotten underway, Hickey’s has come to a close.
Morreale started to tear up when talking about what Hickey meant to the program.
“She was never that kid that was a loud cheerleader,” Morreale said. “But just the way she carried herself and how hard she worked and just being ready for practice every day, the rest of the kids on the team are like, ‘Man, she’s out there busting her butt.’ As a coach you’re like, ‘Yeah, we just had a hard practice yesterday,’ but she pulls them along. … And then over the years she got vocal, so then she had both.”