Men’s golf, women’s gymnastics are breaking records and turning heads

By Alex Roux

You may not know that the Illinois men’s golf and women’s gymnastics teams are currently ranked No. 6 and No. 14 in the country, respectively.

The average Illini fan follows basketball, football and more basketball, in that order. The top-25 rankings for golf and gymnastics don’t scroll along the bottom line of ESPN. The only thing these sports can do to achieve consistent publicity is to grab fans’ attention with eye-popping feats.

The ultimate measuring stick for sports lies within its record books. Fans and the media judge athletes and teams by their achievements and by the numbers and records that stand out. Whether it’s Peyton Manning’s touchdown record or Michael Jordan’s scoring, we judge the greatest by their stats.

In the past week, the Illini men’s golf and women’s gymnastics teams put up some impressive numbers and saw team records of their own fall in competition.

Last Saturday, the women’s gymnasts set a school record for the all-time total team score. The Illini scored a 197.100 as they swept Lindenwood in every event at senior night at Huff Hall.

Not to be outdone, the men’s golf team broke the school record for team score Monday with an 18-under-par performance at the Louisiana Classics tournament. The Illini beat out the 12-team field to finish first in the tournament.

While these teams are in no way defined by the records they’ve set, they have definitely turned some heads with these performances. Now that these record-breaking squads have your attention, you can see why Mike Small and Kim Landrus’ teams are nationally ranked. Both teams are looking to build off strong 2013 seasons, and both are also loaded with Big Ten honorees.

Sunny Kato, Amber See and Giana O’Connor were each named to the all-Big Ten second team following last season, and all three have returned to the lineup this year. See scored the third perfect 10 in Illini history in February, and Erin Buchanan has collected three Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards.

The women’s gymnastics season is winding down, with only the Big Ten Quad Meet and championships left before NCAA regionals. Last season the Illini qualified for the NCAA championships for the third time in school history. They’ll look to make it two years in a row when they compete at regionals in early April.

Every member of the men’s golf team was on last season’s national runner-up squad. Brian Campbell, Charlie Danielson and Thomas Detry have each been named Big Ten Co-Golfer of the Week this spring season.  

The end-of-the-season tournaments don’t come around until May for the men’s golf team, which still hasn’t been able to practice outdoors nearly midway through the season due to winter weather. But that hasn’t stopped the Illini from being the only Big Ten team to hold a top-25 ranking.

It’s not fair that sometimes records have to be broken for fans to take notice of athletic achievement. That’s just the way it is for most nonrevenue-generating sports teams. But whether it’s in football or basketball, gymnastics or golf, these record performances should be applauded.

Alex is a sophomore in AHS. He can be reached at [email protected] and @aroux94.