Season-high score for Illini not enough to beat Tigers

By Jessica Warchall

The Fighting Illini put on their most impressive show of the season, but it was not enough to hold off the Tigers on Saturday. The women’s gymnastics team landed just short of a victory as they fell to No. 8 Missouri with a final score of 195.500-195.125.

Even though the Illini saw an end to their three-meet winning streak, the team was pleased with its performance.

“Overall on all four events we’re pretty pleased,” head coach Bob Starkell said. “We’ve been waiting for this to happen.”

The Illini began the meet on vault where freshman Marijka Botterman achieved a personal-best 9.800 for a third place finish. Sophomore Michelle McGrady tied Botterman for third on the event. Juniors Melissa Singer and Danye Botterman both achieved a 9.750, and freshmen Kim Kruk and Lindsey Smith rounded out the event, both scoring a 9.725. The Illini finished with a 48.825 on vault.

The Illini moved to bars where they struggled with uncharacteristic mistakes and un-stuck landings. Junior co-captain Cara Pomeroy scored a 9.775 to help boost the team total 48.525.

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The team regained its confidence as it competed on beam, posting a final score of 48.875.

“We’re really happy with our performance,” sophomore Krystal Melcarek said. “It was our best meet by far this year; we did an awesome job all together on beam.”

Freshman Julie Crall landed a personal-best 9.875 on beam, good for a first place finish. McGrady also saw a personal-best 9.725, and Marijka Botterman tied her personal-best with the same score.

Crall competed in three events on Saturday, a change from her usual appearance solely on beam. Crall has been out of the lineup due to an ankle injury. Starkell said he is glad to see Crall competing on floor again.

“(Crall) is going to be a good competitor,” Starkell said. “With (Crall) on floor she can potentially be one of our highest scorers.”

Crall proved to be the highest scorer for the Illini on floor on Saturday. She scored a second personal-best of the night with a 9.825, good for second-place. Kruk and Pomeroy both achieved a 9.775 for fifth-place; it was a personal-best for Pomeroy and a tied personal-best for Kruk. The Illini edged out the Tigers on floor scoring a 48.900 over the Tigers’ 48.750.

“Our goal coming in here was to be competitive with Missouri,” Starkell said. “I’m definitely not frustrated with losing.”

The Illini will begin a three-meet stint on the road next weekend, which also commences Big Ten competition. The team is excited to begin Big Ten action, Starkell said, and he said the team is ready for the pressure the Big Ten will bring.

“We’re going to use the momentum we have and just pick it up from where we are,” Melcarek said. “From here we can only get better. This is just the beginning.”