Women stay positive for championship meet despite road struggles



By Wesley Deberry

The season has reached a boiling point as the long awaited Big Ten Championships are finally here. With last week’s sub-par performance at the Illinois Classic behind them, the Illinois women’s gymnastics team travels to State College, Pa., with a positive outlook.

This year, the Illini have their best opportunity to place high at the Big Ten Championships in recent history. Of the four Big Ten teams they faced this year, the Illini have managed to defeat three, losing only to Michigan.

“We have competed against a lot of Big Ten teams this season and we know what’s out there,” junior Michelle McGrady said. “But we also know our own potential.”

Unlike during the regular season, preparation time for the Big Ten Championship has been scarce as the Illini have been on a tight schedule all week. After Sunday’s meet, the Illini came in for treatment and therapy on Monday, practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday and left for the Big Ten Championships on Thursday.

During Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s practices head coach Bob Starkell stressed to his team the need to have clean routines, with emphasis on small details. He also stressed the need for mental focus on the task at hand.

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“This is the time of year when the bodies start getting, and the brains start getting, overloaded,” Starkell said. “So we have got to make sure that we are focused and know exactly what we’re there for.”

Mental focus on the road is something that has eluded the Illini at certain times this season. Currently the Illini have only two road victories this season – at Michigan State and at a meet consisting of Illinois State and University of Wisconsin La-Cross.

“We have had a little difficulty on the road this year, but know it is our time to shine and show the Big Ten what we have to offer,” McGrady said.

While the Illini are confident that they will be able to overcome the long road trip, there are still questions in their line-up. Senior Danye Botterman and sophomore Kim Kruk are both day-to-day with ankle injuries and will be game-time decisions.

Once in Pennsylvania, the Illini will have plenty of time to make line-up decisions. They are scheduled for a practice on Friday followed by a press conference. The final stop for the Illini on Friday will be a banquet where they will find out their competitive rotation for Saturday’s event.

“This is what we have been training for all year,” Starkell said.