Gymnastics kicks off season together with mixed pairs

Ted Brown does circles on the pommel horse at the mixed pairs competition Friday at Huff Hall. The Illinois men´s and women´s gymnastics teams combined members to compete against one another to start their season. Online Poster

Ted Brown does circles on the pommel horse at the mixed pairs competition Friday at Huff Hall. The Illinois men´s and women´s gymnastics teams combined members to compete against one another to start their season. Online Poster

By Mike Czapar

The Illinois men’s and women’s gymnastics teams kicked off their respective seasons competing at the fan-friendly 19th annual Mixed Pairs exhibition at Huff Hall on Friday. The meet featured team members from each squad partnering up to compete against other pairs.

The top three scores of the four-event competition were used to determine the winning couple. This year’s duo of senior Ben Newman and sophomore Cara Pomeroy took top honors finishing first with a combined score of 29.88.

Newman said although the goal of the meet is to get ready for the season, the atmosphere at the Mixed Pairs competition is usually more relaxed than a typical meet.

“We just came in here to try to have a little bit of fun and go through our routines,” Newman said. “We didn’t necessarily do exactly what routine we’ll be doing during the year, but the meet does help us get a feeling of where we’re at and how ready we are for the season.”

The men’s squad, which includes seven talented freshmen, was eager to see how its rookies would perform at their first collegiate competition. Junior Adam Pummer was excited about the Illini’s performance, especially the strong showing of the freshmen class.

“It was a great confidence booster for all of us,” Pummer said. “Getting the freshmen into a meet setting showed us that they can definitely handle the pressure. There were obviously some little mistakes, which is typical for early in the year, but overall it was a great start to the year.”

Head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said he was pleased with the early season showing, and will use the competition to emphasize areas for the team to improve.

“Tonight’s competition went well, but we’re going to have to clean up our routines,” Hayasaki said. “We’ve got about two weeks of hard winter training coming up before our next meet. It’s very good because from here we know what we have to work on.”

Friday night’s competition was a success for not only the men’s team, but also for the women’s squad.

Head women’s coach Bob Starkell was very pleased with the improvements the women’s team showed in a few areas he considered.

“The most pleasing event for us tonight was vault,” Starkell said. “It’s been by far our weakest event for the 12 years I’ve been here, and tonight we performed really well. Overall, we were just really glad to get our team in front of an environment with fans, to get excited for the season.”

Sophomore Cara Pomeroy said the women’s team was glad to get back on the mat, and get back in the swing of competition.

“I think today helped us get rid of our nerves, which will really help boost our confidence for when we start our regular season in January,” Pomeroy said. “I think we had a really good day, and everybody showed some good routines.”

With winter break coming up, the Illini will have some time off before they resume competition on Jan. 8. The men will head north to compete at the Windy City Invitational in Chicago, while the women’s first test will be at Illinois State.