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Illinois women’s gymnastics grabs a win with strong performances

Illinois%E2%80%99+Giana+O%E2%80%99Connor+spins+on+the+high+bar+during+the+uneven+bars+event+at+the+match+vs.+Penn+State+at+Huff+Hall+on+Saturday.+O%E2%80%99Connor+scored+a+9.775+on+the+event.+Illinois+won+the+match+196.400-195.600.
Illinois’ Giana O’Connor spins on the high bar during the uneven bars event at the match vs. Penn State at Huff Hall on Saturday. O’Connor scored a 9.775 on the event. Illinois won the match 196.400-195.600.

Illinois’ Giana O’Connor spins on the high bar during the uneven bars event at the match vs. Penn State at Huff Hall on Saturday. O’Connor scored a 9.775 on the event. Illinois won the match 196.400-195.600.

Illinois’ Giana O’Connor spins on the high bar during the uneven bars event at the match vs. Penn State at Huff Hall on Saturday. O’Connor scored a 9.775 on the event. Illinois won the match 196.400-195.600.


Illini women’s gymnastics head coach Kim Landrus was more concerned with Illinois’ individual performances than its scores Saturday. But it was those strong showings that earned them a 196.400-195.600 win over Penn State at Huff Hall after losing to Michigan last weekend.

“We had a really challenging week,” Landrus said. “There were some obstacles that we had to overcome. (The gymnasts) came in here and really were determined to do what they know how to do.”

Illinois’ new season-high total began with a strong start on vault. The Illini earned a 49.025 on the event, improving from last weekend when they failed to score a 49. Landrus said it was exciting to see improvement, but she felt the team still has more to show from its vault lineup.

The score, however, was still enough to give Illinois a slim 49.025-49.000 lead over Penn State heading into the second rotation.

From there, the Illini scored a 49.150 on the uneven bars. Of the scores the Illini counted on bars, only one was below a 9.8, junior Giana O’Connor’s 9.775.

The 49.150 on bars also extended Illinois’ streak of scoring at least a 49 on the apparatus, but it’s something O’Connor has come to expect of her team.

Sophomore Mary Jane Horth solidified the high bars score for Illinois with a 9.925, the highest bars score of the competition. This, however, wasn’t enough for Illinois to maintain its lead though, as Penn State’s 49.550 on vault was too much.

Down 98.550-98.175 going to the balance beam, Illinois bounced back despite a few wobbles and near-falls.

“If I would’ve fallen, obviously, going first, that puts a lot of pressure on the team,” O’Connor said. “There’s five other people that go after me, so I was proud of everyone for fighting and sticking with the wobbles and fighting for those extra tenths.”

Illinois counted just one score below a 9.8 on beam just as it had on bars. Sophomore Erin Buchanan and senior Jordan Naleway each earned a 9.800, while Horth tabbed a 9.875. Senior and beam-anchor Sunny Kato then put up a 9.900 to finish off the rotation.

Illinois’ beam success combined with the meet-low 48.425 Penn State posted on floor gave Illinois the 147.300-146.975 lead heading into its final rotation on floor.

Last weekend, the Illini scored just a 48.750 on floor. But with O’Connor’s 9.900 and four 9.800s, they achieved a new season-high on floor, a 49.100, an improvement O’Connor emphasized.

The Illini are aware that there’s still improvements to be made despite the success seen Saturday.

“Everyone’s happy about (the win), but we still want more,” O’Connor said.

Ashley can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @wijangco12.

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