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The Daily Illini

Illinois women’s gymnastics hangs on for win over Michigan State


The Illinois women’s gymnastics team was in its third rotation when sophomore Erin Buchanan fell while performing her leap series on the balance beam. Meanwhile, junior Giana O’Connor, the next gymnast in the beam lineup, didn’t even know about it.

O’Connor was over by the uneven bars singing and dancing, preparing herself for her routine. She struggled with the beam earlier in the season, but not against Michigan State on Friday.

After a few words from head coach Kim Landrus, O’Connor mounted the beam and hit her routine for a 9.875. It wasn’t until she completed her routine that she even found out about Buchanan’s fall.

That fall was just one of a few mishaps the Illini had Friday night at Huff Hall, but they still pulled off the 196.500-196.325 win over Michigan State.

The first major mistake came on vault when freshman Jordyn Givens fell. Givens was the anchor for the event, and her score didn’t count toward Illinois’ event total of 49.050. However, that wasn’t the only disappointment.

Landrus felt the gymnasts weren’t aggressive enough on vault and O’Connor agreed, saying they needed to be more dynamic.

From there, the Illini moved to the uneven bars, the lone event where they hit all of their routines. Illinois only counted one score below a 9.8, but Landrus wanted to see more stuck landings.

On beam, there was Buchanan’s fall, but the event still ended up being Illinois’ best of the night, because Buchanan’s 9.100 didn’t count toward the event total. The Illini posted a 49.250 on beam, their highest event total for the meet.

“Despite the one mistake that we had, they really came out and nailed beam,” Landrus said.

But while Illinois was having its best event on beam, the Spartans were also having their best event: floor.

Coming into the meet, Michigan State was only ranked No. 19 on floor, and it showed through the 49.400 the Spartans earned. It was not only their best event total for the meet, but it was the best event total between either team. The 49.400 was also enough for Michigan State to take the lead from Illinois — a lead that was as small as 0.025.

Illinois headed to floor, the final rotation, down 147.450-147.400, but O’Connor knew it wouldn’t faze her team. She led the floor lineup by scoring one of the Illini’s two 9.9’s, and they only counted one score below a 9.8.

The Illini’s last major mistake came on floor. Sophomore Mary Jane Horth landed off-center on her final tumbling pass, causing her to touch her hands to the floor to prevent a fall.

Even with those mishaps, Illinois strung together enough high scores to achieve its second-best overall score of the season, just behind last weekend’s season-high 196.975.

“It’s nice to know we got a 196.500 with so much room for improvement,” senior Jordan Naleway said. “There were a lot of little mistakes — some uncharacteristic things — but it’s nice to know we still have that much potential.”

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

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