Strong vaulting leads to victory

By Jessica Warchall

The women’s gymnastics team landed its first win of the season in front of a crowd of 1,171 during its home opener at Huff Hall on Saturday night. The Illini (1-2) executed their best performance of the season and finished the meet with a score of 192.450. The Maryland Terrapins (1-2) fell short with a team score of 190.400.

The Illini took a quick lead after beginning the meet on vault, scoring a 48.850 with four gymnasts scoring their personal best. Sophomore Michelle McGrady achieved a personal best 9.875, good enough for a first-place finish. Personal bests were also achieved by freshmen Lindsey Smith (9.775), Marijka Botterman (9.75) and Kim Kruk (9.675).

“It was probably our best vault day,” head coach Bob Starkell said. “We had a lot of good energy, and we were able to carry it over to bars.”

Illinois moved to the uneven bars after its season-best vault performance. Junior co-captain Cara Pomeroy led the Illini with a season-best 9.850 and first-place finish. Kruk, Marijka Botterman, sophomore Krystal Melcarek and junior Danye Botterman also contributed to the team score of 48.200.

Uncharacteristic falls created a “snowball effect” for the Illini when they competed on beam, Botterman said.

“When one person falls it makes the team more nervous because they know they have to hit (their routine),” Pomeroy said.

Starkell believes after one person falls, the rest of the team is only concentrating on not falling during the routine, so they are more likely to fall. He attributes the uncharacteristic falls on beam to nerves, which caused many of the gymnasts to perform their routines too conservatively.

“We had one big mistake and that was where we began to feel uncomfortable,” Starkell said. “(The gymnasts) don’t like making mistakes.”

The Illini only finished with a 47.300 on beam.

The meet ended for the Illini on floor, which is exciting for the team because it is a crowd pleaser, Pomeroy said. The floor exercise looked different for the Illini this week because they had to rest freshman Julie Crall and junior Danye Botterman, out with sore ankles.

“For us to be awfully successful we’re going to need Julie Crall back in the lineup,” Starkell said.

Pomeroy came in to score a 9.650 for her first floor appearance as an Illini. It was also Marijka Botterman’s (9.000) first appearance on floor. McGrady achieved a second personal best of the night when she scored a 9.825, good for another first-place finish. Senior co-captain Katie Wild (9.775) and Melcarek (9.750) finished second and third, respectively. Kruk (9.100) also added to the team score of 48.100 on floor.

Starkell said his team will be proud going into practice on Monday because of its strong performance on vault. However, he will use practice this week to go over the mistakes made this weekend in order to improve routines for the interstate competition on Jan. 29 at Northern Illinois.

“We had a lot of good stuff,” Starkell said. “We also had some mistakes that we have to try to correct for next weekend.”