Gymnastics takes on No. 9 Denver

By Mike Czapar

Unlike the climbing tuition at this university, admission to this weekend’s gymnastics competition has gone down slightly in price. How about free? In honor of student appreciation night, all Parkland and Illinois students will be admitted free of charge to this Saturday’s gymnastics competition at Huff Hall. Any fan who shows up at 7 p.m. with a valid student ID will be treated to seeing the Illinois women’s gymnastics team take on No. 9 Denver.

The Illini are looking forward to coming home, after chalking up a record of 7-1 during three straight away meets. The team returns home coming off a victory at the Cardinal Classic that featured solid performances from several team members.

Like Illinois, Denver returns two athletes who competed in the 2004 NCAA championships-sophomores Casey Dobyns and Heather Huffaker. The Pioneers have compiled a record of 6-2 this season, in part due to their talented group of younger athletes.

Head coach Bob Starkell said the Illini are especially excited to be back in Huff Hall and to perform in front of a home crowd.

“I think for any sport it’s always great to be back at home,” Starkell said. “You get to go through your normal routine, sleep in your own bed and wake up in your room. But, I think what the team loves the most is coming into the gym, looking up in the stands and seeing the sea of orange.”

The Illini have been focusing on small improvements throughout the meet in preparation for the talented Denver squad.

Senior Margret Dunn said the Illini always try and keep their focus internal, and this week’s preparation has been no different.

“We can’t really perform thinking about who we’re up against,” Dunn said. “We always just work at practice on us, and how to improve. This week we worked little things like sticking the landing and pointing your toes.”

Senior Laura Newcomb maintained that the team focus was again improvement and making progress from last week’s performance.

“After seeing how last week went, it was good to get back in the gym and work on what areas we can improve in,” Newcomb said. “Denver is a really good team and we want to go in the meet and hit everything 100 percent.”