Gymnasts post strong score

By Mike Czapar

The No. 18 Illinois women’s gymnastics team showed its talent by breaking into the top 25 last week after a strong showing in its season opener. Last Saturday, the Illini had another solid performance at Penn State, taking second place at the triangular meet.

Illinois clocked in with a team score of 193.200 – enough to defeat Pittsburgh, but short of host Penn State’s 194.125.

Senior Lauren Newcomb continued her early season success as Illinois’s top performer, placing first in the all-around with a score of 38.675. Newcomb is perfect for the year, following her tie for first in Illinois’ season opener against Illinois State and Central Michigan last weekend.

Head coach Bob Starkell said it was unfortunate that the Illini fell short of Penn State, but was still happy with the team’s performance.

“As a coaching staff, we are very pleased with our progress as a team,” Starkell said. “Lauren had another great meet individually and as a team we really had strong routines on bars and beam. Unfortunately, we ran out of steam at the end, but overall I’m pleased with our performance. This meet will be good motivation for the team as the season continues.”

The Illini hit the mat running with a strong first rotation on bars. Sophomore Cara Pomeroy posted a 9.850 on her strongest event, and freshman Krystal Melcarek chipped in with a solid 9.725 in the first performance of her collegiate career. Pomeroy’s score of 9.850 earned her first place.

Newcomb said the Illini had a strong meet, and improved on several areas of performance.

“We had a really good meet, and we showed a lot of improvement from our last competition,” Newcomb said. “It came down to the last event, and even though Penn State ended up pulling ahead of us, it was a good meet. It was a little disappointing, but that kind of stuff happens.”

Illinois continued to battle with Penn State throughout the meet. Senior Kara Kapernekas earned a 9.800 on beam to tie Penn State sophomore Corissa Pirkl for first place. The rest of the Illini posted strong beam routines, as Pomeroy’s 9.775 tied for third, while Newcomb and junior Katie Wild came in fifth and sixth-place, respectively.

On the floor exercise, the Nittany Lions would dominate with their entire lineup placing in the top seven spots.

Despite Newcomb’s 9.725, the Illini also fell short of Penn State in the vault title, as four gymnasts placed in the top five.

“We’re looking to build off of the weekend’s performance, and we going to be really motivated and excited this week at practice,” Newcomb said. “We have a short week with our next match on Friday, but we’re going to use those three days to kick it up.”

The Illini continue on the road this Friday, taking on Ball State at 7 p.m.