Gymnastics send off seniors in style

By Mike Czapar

The No. 2 Illinois men’s gymnastics team capped off its regular season with a comfortable win against No. 13 Illinois-Chicago. A relaxed Illini squad sent the Flames packing with a 221.550-209.450 victory at Huff Hall Saturday.

The victory marked the last time seniors Nick Hand, Peter Shostchuk and Ben Newman would compete at Huff.

Head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said the seniors have certainly left their mark at Illinois over their four years, and was glad to finish the regular season on a high note.

“Those three guys (Hand, Shostchuk and Newman) were some of the first guys that were part of my first recruiting class, and they have done a tremendous job in the last four years,” Hayasaki said. “They have shown their leadership not just in gymnastics, but in the classroom as well. I have so much praise for those three guys, and it was great for them to perform well tonight.”

The seniors were honored in a post-meet ceremony, where the individual accomplishments of each athlete were recognized and applauded.

Newman said he was glad to end his career at Huff on a high note, and is excited to see what the postseason will bring for the Illini.

“It was a little emotional being the last time at Huff, but it (Newman’s time at Illinois) has been good,” Newman said. “I’ve really enjoyed my time here at Illinois, and I was glad we had a good meet. Hopefully, this will be my best year.”

Illinois took five of six events, including the top four spots on floor and pommel horse, the top three on rings and the top five spots on parallel bars.

Newman and Shostchuk showed their intentions to repeat as All-Americans on the pommel horse, finishing first and second, respectively.

Stealing a portion of the spotlight Saturday was junior Justin Spring and his three event titles, which earned him the all-around title as well. In the first time Spring has competed in the all-around on the season, he showed he has almost fully recovered from a high ankle sprain that has plagued him most of the year.

Spring said he was pleased with his success in his first meet of full participation, and hopes to keep improving as the Illini head into the Big Ten championships.

“I did unexpectedly well as far I can say,” Spring said. “On floor, I was a little shaky because I’m not used to doing all of the events – I was a little tired at the end, but that’s just the endurance that I need to start building up at practice now.”

Spring said the Illini will miss the senior class, and have learned a lot from their leadership over the years.

“As juniors, we’re the class that has known them the longest and been through the most,” Spring said. “Between being roommates and teammates, it’s been three good years and it’s sad to see them go.”