Illini look ahead to meet against Michigan State

By Laura Hettiger

It’s cold season, the first round of exams are being issued all around campus, and to top that off – it’s Valentine’s Day. But Michelle McGrady, a senior on the Illinois gymnastics team, already knows all about tough love.

McGrady, like many of her teammates, have a busy day filled with midterm exams, broken up only by a four hour gymnastics practice. And in a mere 48 hours, she will join the rest of her team in Huff Hall to take on Big Ten foe, Michigan State. Being a student-athlete and accountancy major, McGrady knows how to handle herself in stressful situations.

“By second semester of your sophomore year, you really get used to it,” said the Buffalo Grove, Ill., native. “You know you will always do your best.”

Her teammates and coach, however, hope McGrady’s motto of “doing your best” will help in defeating an evenly matched Spartan team on Saturday night. Now reaching the midpoint of the gymnastics season, the Illini need to earn a high team score to help its average and move up in the national rankings.

“Michigan State is awfully good right now, probably better than I would have thought at this point in time,” said head coach Bob Starkell. “They’re a young team, they’re coaching staff is excellent, and they will be well prepared.”

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While both teams are young, the No. 22 Spartans and Illinois share a major gymnastics flaw: they’ve both struggled with the balance beam for the majority of the season.

Michigan State is coming off of a big victory over Maryland last weekend. It was one of the first meets the Spartans (6-2) found success on the four-foot, four-inch apparatus.

After returning home from its own weekend competition in Chicago, the Illini (1-4) are focusing on correcting minor mistakes and are looking to have a solid meet.

“We’ve gotten one thing out of the way,” Starkell said. “This past weekend, we were able to take away our dreaded beam fall that we’ve been counting every weekend. This week, each individual was able to pick out some of the small things they can fix.”

The nine-year veteran coach understands his gymnasts’ hectic lifestyle, and like McGrady, other athletes on the team are dealing with classes, exams, and practice, while trying to give their bodies enough rest in order to compete at the collegiate level.

Instead of getting frustrated with all of her commitments, McGrady is just excited about her senior season and receiving another chance to battle a conference rival.

“Michigan State will be a good competition,” said McGrady about the 7 p.m. Saturday match up. “They will give us a run for our money. Probably, this team is the most talented I’ve been on since I’ve been here.”