Illini hope to make statement at Iowa

By Laura Hettiger

The last move is what people always remember. And most of the time, that last move turns into a lasting impression. For this year’s Fighting Illini women’s gymnastics team, their last moves have been hindering everything else.

Small mistakes and a lack of confidence have hurt head coach Bob Starkell and company, who are trying to put everything together to have a successful meet against an evenly matched Iowa team Friday at 7 p.m.

“On all four events, we’ve been practicing really hard on finishing our routines,” Starkell said. “Especially on the last element or last skill that they do, they don’t make mistakes, they don’t take a step, they don’t wiggle. Just really fine-tune how they finish up.”

Because gymnastics is judged so critically on technique and execution, this year’s group is really trying to work out all of the kinks early in the season before looking too far into the future. With the Hawkeyes planning to attack on all four apparatuses, the Illini need to focus on the gymnastics they do every day.

Losing the first two meets of the season, Illinois is hoping to make a big statement at Iowa. Burdened by small breaks and falls in a few routines, the team knows it can improve and is better than its 0-2 record shows.

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“(The season) started off better than last year,” said sophomore Sarah Schmidt. “We could have done better than what we have the last two meets, but we haven’t made huge mistakes, so hopefully all we can do is go up from there. This meet we’re looking to go in there and hit and not count any falls, and hopefully that will help get us a better away score then we have and possibly beat them.”

Although the team is still searching for perfection, friendship among the teammates has already been established – and celebrated. Starkell and Schmidt both agree Illinois’ greatest strength is the team’s chemistry and willingness to help one another.

Even with a close-knit team, competition is still present. This year’s gymnastics team is trying to put together the last piece of the puzzle and leave the judges with a positive lasting impression. Being able to put only six athletes in the lineup for each event, Starkell embraces the camaraderie and the passion for success his team shows.

“Our main objective is to make sure we cover up or be able … to execute better on some of the major breaks they had this past weekend,” Starkell said. “Some of our key events we put a little more emphasis (on) are both balance beam and floor exercise. On bars, we were trying to add distractions to them, so they can concentrate on making sure they were focusing on their landings.”

Starkell hopes this weekend his team can put everything together: the landings, the pointed toes, no falls, no breaks, no mistakes. By limiting their distractions and feeding off one another’s excitement, the team hopes the judges remember their last moves for the right reason this time.