Women’s gymnastics team keeps poise, ready to compete



By Wesley Deberry

The Illini women’s gymnastics team travels to Tuscon, Ariz., for the NCAA South Regional to compete in Championships this Saturday at 8 p.m.

The Illini will be the four seed in a six-team field consisting of No. 4 Stanford, No. 8 Oregon State, No. 15 Arizona, No. 26 Arizona State and No. 36 Illinois-Chicago. Only the top two teams of the six-team field will continue to the NCAA National Championships.

“It’s definitely going to be one of the more difficult brackets,” head coach Bob Starkell said. “Especially because we have some awfully strong Pac-10 teams that we haven’t seen this year so it’s very hard to compare ourselves with them.”

When Starkell has not been at practice he has been looking at films of opponents. He admits the skills of the opposition are comparable to the Illini, but it is hard to gauge how the Illini will match up.

Stanford comes into the regional tournament after a strong performance in the Pac-10 tournament earning second-place honors. Oregon State took third in the Pac-10 tournament followed by Arizona and Arizona State, respectively.

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Illinois-Chicago also will come into the regional championship with momentum after recently winning the Illinois Classic and the Midwest Independent Championships.

For Cara Pomeroy and the rest of the senior class the build up to Saturday’s regional tournament has been emotional.

“Just realizing that these could be my last couple of practices at Kenney Gym is kind of sad,” Pomeroy said. “But hopefully that’s not the case and we have two more weeks here.”

Despite some feeling of uneasiness, Pomeroy cannot help but be excited about her teammates after their recent third-place finish at the Big Ten Championships.

Freshman Nicole Cowart and Sarah Schmidt gained valuable experience from the Big Ten Tournament as a benchmark for what the Regional Tournament will be like.

“We’re just telling them to expect the same as Big Tens: lots of talented schools and a long competition,” Pomeroy said.

Since the Big Ten Tournament, Starkell has concentrated on the mental aspects of competition and has given his gymnasts time to rest.

“I hope with healthy bodies we’re going to have healthy minds going into a pretty important meet,” Starkell said.

In the regional tournament Starkell will go with the same lineup that placed well at the Big Ten Tournament. He said his current team is the most consistent he has had in his tenure at the University.

“Somewhere, somehow, sometimes our score doesn’t reflect it, but either mentally of physically we have been improving each week,” Starkell said.