Newcomb wins all-around as No. 25 Illinois moves to 4-1

By Mike Czapar

Last year, the No. 25 Illinois women’s gymnastics team struggled at the annual Cardinal Classic at Ball State and ended up falling short. This year, the Illini had a few mistakes late in the meet but learned enough from last year to hold on, posting a team score of 192.325 to take the title at the five-team meet.

The Illini were again led by the experience and talent of senior Lauren Newcomb as she captured her third consecutive all-around title of the season with a 38.700. Newcomb captured her fifth individual title of the year along the way and remains unbeaten in the all-around competition on the year.

Newcomb’s success this year shows how much progress she has made throughout her tenure at Illinois. Prior to her current senior season, Newcomb has won four individual titles – a number she has surpassed in the first three meets alone.

Head coach Bob Starkell attributes Newcomb’s success this year to her discipline at practice and her presence on the vault.

“She (Newcomb) is a really controlled individual and is not that affected by outside factors,” Starkell said. “She’s a power gymnast, which really helps her succeed on the vault – and when she does well on the vault she gets the confidence to perform well overall.”

The Illini started the meet strong with good rotations on the vault and the bars, but struggled later in the meet, encountering problems on the balance beam and floor routine.

Despite some mistakes late in the meet, Illinois held on to win as sophomore Cara Pomeroy tied for first on the bars, senior Margaret Dann took second on the beam and sophomore Danye Botterman came in behind only Newcomb on the vault.

Newcomb said the Illini were pleased to come out with a victory, but unhappy with some of the team’s uncharacteristic mistakes.

“Overall, we were happy we came home with a win, but we were a little disappointed with some of our mistakes,” Newcomb said. “It was our third meet in a row on the road, and our bodies are a little tired from all the traveling. We’re really looking forward to performing at home this weekend and getting back into our normal practice schedule.”

The Illini move to 4-1 overall, and will spend the week preparing for their home opener against No. 14 Denver this Saturday at Huff Hall. The meet will also feature the No. 2 men’s team taking on No. 1 Ohio State.

Starkell said the Illini are looking forward to competing at Huff, and hinted that the Illini might feature some slight line-up changes.

“We’re really excited about performing at home, and I think we’re almost overly excited because we’ve had such a long stretch early without a home meet,” Starkell said. “We’re going to have to finish stronger in some areas, and we might see some line-up changes. As a whole we’re just looking forward to competing at home.”