Men tie for first place

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Mike Czapar

Three decimal places. In college gymnastics, scores go up to three decimal places – which proved not to be precise enough as the No. 2 Illinois men’s gymnastics team finished dead even with No. 1 Ohio State.

The Illini and the Buckeyes battled back and forth all meet, but both clocked in with a season high 223.400 in front of a crowd of 1,241 at Huff Hall Saturday night.

Head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said it was unfortunate the Illini did not come up on top, but was glad the Illini participated in such a close meet so early in the year.

“I thought we had a pretty good competition,” Hayasaki said. “There are always a few places here and there where you could have done a little better, but overall we did post our season high, so we can’t really complain about our performance tonight.”

The Illini took three events, and tied for a fourth. They were led by junior Adam Pummer’s individual titles on the parallel bar and the floor, and freshman Tyler Yamauchi’s first place finish on the vault.

Pummer said the Illini were pleased with their performance, especially since the squad is not at full strength due to injuries.

“We had a pretty good hit percentage tonight, but we can always do better,” Pummer said. “We’re really looking forward to getting guys back in the swing of things, and back into their routines. We got great performances from our freshmen at their first meet at home with a good crowd, and we’re looking to build off this meet.”

Although the meet featured several solid routines, none topped junior Justin Spring’s nail-biting high bar performance at the conclusion of the meet. Despite not being at full strength because of injury, Spring nailed the routine with a 9.700 to tie for first with Ohio State’s Randy Monahan.

Spring said the close meet was a reminder of how intense the Illini need to perform to beat strong opponents, and a preview of what post-season competition is like.

“We got a team high which is great, but we’ve got so much potential to do better,” Spring said. “The fact that we tied with Ohio State just really shows how neck and neck we are. It kind of gives us that mentality that we’re going to have to get to that point of perfection by the end of the season, so it’s going to be an exciting end of the road.”

Hayasaki said he thought Saturday’s results will be beneficial to the Illini, proving the importance of focusing on the little things.

“We will have to compete against Ohio State again in the Big Ten and the NCAA championships, and I think we gained a lot from this competition,” Hayasaki said. “We know now how important each routine and each landing is. We know that we have to execute on every event if we want to win.”

The Illini’s next team competition is Feb. 12th against defending national champion Penn State. However, nine individuals will be competing in the Winter Cup Challenge Feb. 4-5 in Las Vegas – a meet that features some of the top gymnasts in the nation, including 2004 U.S. Olympians.