Women compete in Cardinal classic

By Mike Czapar

The No. 25 women’s gymnastics team heads to Ball State today to compete in the five-team annual Cardinal Classic. After dropping seven spots in the polls, the Illini are fired up to compete and looking to build on two prior strong showings.

Despite being favored entering the competition, Illinois had a bad showing at Ball State last year, and anticipates a tough meet.

Head coach Bob Starkell said the Illini hope to continue its progress and want to improve in a few areas that have been a hindrance.

“We’re coming off of two fairly good weekends, and we want to clean up some mistakes that have been almost identical in the last two meets,” Starkell said. “We’re looking to add a little energy to our vault and floor exercise, and we’re looking forward to competing against four teams that are strong in different areas.”

Last season, with a score of 192.875, the Illini placed third at the Cardinal Classic, with Bowling Green nabbing the title and host Ball State placing second. This season, the Illini will compete against Western Michigan, Wisconsin-Eau-Claire and Illinois State – a team Illinois opened its regular with.

Although the Illini enter the meet as the only team ranked in the top 25, host Ball State suffered from injuries last year, and will likely put forth a solid effort.

Senior Lauren Newcomb remembers last year’s meet and said the Illini are eager to redeem a performance that slipped away.

“Last year when we came to the Cardinal invite, we kind of fell apart on the last rotation,” Newcomb said. “We really want to get a better outcome this year, and we’re really excited to get back in a facility that we’re familiar with.”

Illinois has continued to emphasize small improvements throughout the past week of practice, and hope to execute smoother routines as the season progresses.

Sophomore Cara Pomeroy said the memory of last year’s shortcoming along with the hard work at practice has really motivated the Illini for this meet.

“We all remember it and we don’t want (last year’s finish) to happen again,” Pomeroy said. “We’re really excited about this weekend, and we’ve been working really hard in practice to prepare. We’ve really been cleaning up routines, and working to stick the landing.”