Women soar over Redbirds

By Jessica Warchall

The women’s gymnastics team overtook Illinois State at home Saturday en route to achieving a season-high score. The Illini (4-2) defeated the Redbirds (3-4) with a final score of 194.175-187.875.

“We just keep getting better,” head coach Bob Starkell said. “We realized we can do this, and we put it all together as a team.”

The Illini started strong on vault where they recorded a 48.625. Six of the top seven scores on the event were set by Illini. Sophomore Michelle McGrady placed first with a 9.8 followed by freshman Kim Kruk with a personal-best 9.75. The Illini brought the momentum gained on vault to bars where they recorded their best event score of the night.

The team has struggled on bars the past two weeks, but Starkell said bars were the best event of the night as they carded a 48.925. Starkell said his team took a huge psychological step competing on bars this week since the last two rough weeks on bars played on their confidence level.

“You can almost guarantee that they thought about the last two weeks a little bit,” Starkell said. “And depending how strong the team is mentally, it can either attack much harder or let the last two weeks fester and compete more conservatively.”

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Starkell believes the Illini put the last two weeks behind them as they took the top five places on bars. Junior co-captain Cara Pomeroy came in first with a 9.875. Kruk (9.775) achieved her second career-best of the night. Junior Danye Botterman (9.800), sophomore Krystal Melcarek (9.725) and freshman Marijka Botterman (9.75) rounded out the top-five.

The Illini moved to beam where they took a step back, Starkell said. He attributes the 47.975 to the team not following through on each skill. Pomeroy gained a second first-place finish with a 9.775. Senior co-captain Katie Wild and McGrady tied for second with 9.700 – a personal-best for McGrady.

“We changed our attitudes completely, and we have so much more confidence in ourselves,” McGrady said. “Our mindsets are totally different; we had no doubts in our minds that we’d do well today.”

McGrady had another first-place finish with a 9.800 on floor. Kruk (9.775) attributes her second-place finish, tied with her personal-best, to the energy felt while competing at home and practicing with a competitive mindset last week.

“The nicest thing about (Saturday) is that we finished out on floor,” Starkell said. “For the freshmen coming into this, it’s a big step for them to make sure they complete the whole meet.”

Starkell said the Illini are beginning to feel the postseason pressure even though they still have a handful of meets left. However, he is cautious as to not get ahead of himself and the meets at hand. The Illini will prepare this week to face No. 7 Missouri at home Feb. 11.

“We are taking this one week at a time,” Starkell said. “If we start getting ahead of ourselves, we get lost in practice and we can’t concentrate on the things we need to make due for next weekend.”