Pomeroy, team head to regionals

By Jessica Warchall

The Illini are headed to the South Central Regional for the third year in a row under head coach Bob Starkell. His team earned a fourth seed in the Regional to be held in Fayetteville, Ark., on April 8. No. 30 Illinois earned its bid with a Regional Qualifying Score of 194.060.

“In the middle stretch of our season we started to perform really well and that made a difference,” Starkell said. “Right now we are concerned on getting a strong group in the lineup because of injuries that need rest.”

Joining the Illini in the regional competition are No. 3 Florida, No. 9 UCLA, No. 18 Arkansas, No. 42 Illinois-Chicago and No. 49 Southeast Missouri State.

During its regular season, Illinois faced Florida and Illinois-Chicago on the road.

The Illini fell to Florida with a score of 190.800, but they claimed a victory in Chicago, posting a season high 195.300.

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“Florida is one of the best teams in the nation, so it will be a challenge for us,” Starkell said. “We know that to be a better team we have to compete against the best.”

Five all-arounders and one event specialist for each event, not on a qualifying team, will join the six teams at regionals. The top two teams and top two all-arounders will advance to the national championships in Oregon held on April 20-22.

The Illini will begin the competition on bars as they did at the Big Ten Championships on Saturday. Starkell said bars have been Illinois’ strength throughout the season so he is glad to begin on the event, but he said UCLA has excellent bar performers, so it will be a challenge to win the event.

Illinois has traveled to the regional championships 19 times, and its best finish has been fourth place. The Illini have yet to qualify for the national championships as a team. However, last year, junior co-captain Cara Pomeroy qualified for Nationals as she posted a perfect 10.0 on bars to claim the Regional title.

“For (Pomeroy) to move on to nationals, she has to win the meet,” Starkell said. “If she has a meet like she did at Big Tens – she hit three solid routines – she will have success at Regionals.”

The team finished in sixth place at last year’s South Central Regional in Lincoln, Neb., with a 193.850. In 2004 the team achieved fifth place by scoring a 195.400. Starkell said his team is in different stages with the upperclassmen hitting their stride and the freshmen still trying to find their niche, but he is still confident in his team’s ability.

“Our main goal right now is to get our team to nationals,” Starkell said. “If we make that goal as a team then generally the individuals will perform well.”