School’s best finish caps season

Schools best finish caps season

By Jessica Warchall

The Illini matched their best finish in school history at the South Central Regional in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday. Thirtieth-ranked Illinois posted a 193.125 to finish fourth. The team finished fourth on five other occasions, but this was the first time since 1987.

“We had positive results from our freshmen to our seniors,” head coach Bob Starkell said. “We are pleased with the team outcome, and our performances were strong.”

No. 3 Florida took first with a 196.375. Host No. 18 Arkansas (195.400) took second, while No. 9 UCLA (195.175) finished third to miss qualifying for the NCAA Championships. Illinois-Chicago (191.125) and Southeast Missouri State (189.050) finished fifth and sixth, respectively.

The Illini began on bars where junior co-captain Cara Pomeroy scored a 9.800, good for eighth place overall. Sophomore Krystal Melcarek achieved a 9.725, and freshman Julie Crall earned her first of three career-highs for the meet with a 9.675. Freshmen Marijka Botterman (9.575) and Kim Kruk (9.550) added to the team total of 48.325 for the event.

“The athletes were energetic and excited to start on bars, but they were a little conservative,” Starkell said. “They wanted to stay on and get through it to have an opportunity to perform well on the next event.”

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The second rotation landed Illinois on beam where they struggled, only posting a 48.000. Crall and Pomeroy led the way scoring a 9.775 and a 9.750, respectively. Senior co-captain Katie Wild earned a 9.650, and Botterman (9.550) and junior Melissa Singer (9.275) finished the event for the Illini.

“Cara Pomeroy led the way in her competitive nature and how she carries herself to compete really well,” Starkell said.

Illinois moved to floor earning a 48.200. Crall and Kruk were the top Illini scorers earning 9.725s. Wild (9.675), Singer (9.575) and Pomeroy (9.500) also counted toward the team total.

The Illini finished on vault where they posted their top event score of the meet, a 48.600. Freshmen Lindsey Smith (9.800) and Crall (9.775) both achieved career highs and Botterman also scored a 9.775. Singer (9.650) and Kruk (9.600) rounded out the team score.

“Our best event of the night was vault,” Starkell said. “The athletes took full advantage of knowing it was an NCAA meet and they had to finish out strong and feel like they accomplished something.”

Crall achieved her third career-high of the meet with a 38.950 in the all-around competition, just missing qualifying for the NCAA Championships. Had UCLA finished second as a team, Crall would have advanced to the championships as an all-arounder for a non-qualifying team.

“Julie Crall had an excellent day,” Starkell said. “We knew that if she hit all four of her routines she could be our top scorer. She was extremely comfortable and confident with her gymnastics.”

Starkell was pleased with the team’s overall performance, and he said he is looking forward to next year when he will have a larger team to work with. The Illini lose two seniors, but will welcome four freshmen onto the team.