Women’s gymnastics strengthens for second chance at Hawkeyes, Spartans

By Laura Hettiger

Revenge is in the air.

Originally slated to compete against Northern Illinois University this upcoming Sunday, the Fighting Illini women’s gymnastics team were left scrambling to find a replacement meet after the Huskies cancelled following the shooting on Valentine’s Day.

Luckily, their Big Ten foe Iowa gave No. 21 Illinois the go ahead to compete in their meet on Sunday against No. 19 Michigan State – and the girls could not be more excited for their conference battle.

“This weekend we’re real confident,” said junior Marijka Botterman. “We’re ready to go in there and just (beat) (Michigan) State.”

Coming off a devastating loss to the Spartans just five days ago, Botterman says the team is ready for a rematch. After already defeating Iowa this season in late January, the girls hope to reign supreme over the Hawkeyes once again.

If their week in practice is any indicator, the girls will have no problem getting pumped up for the meet.

“Their practice this week, they are a little more uplifted,” said head coach Bob Starkell. “They seem to be really paying attention to detail. We’ve been doing a little bit heavier strength so they’ve been trying to condition a little bit harder.”

“The environment in the gym has been very good, so I would assume they are going to be pretty motivated for the second half of the season.”

Currently 1-5 on the year, the Illini are now entering the last part of the competitive season. Hoping to improve not only the team’s record, but also their team average, Illinois is excited to participate in the three-team format.

Illinois will most likely begin the meet either on the balance beam or the floor exercise. In a regular dual meet, the home team begins on vault while the visitors start on the uneven bars. The nine-year veteran coach hopes to use the conference showdown to prepare for important upcoming competitions on the Illini’s schedule.

“When we come into the postseason, when you have more than two teams, there’s a large chance that you could be on an event that’s either not vault or bars,” Starkell said. “I think that in itself would give us a chance to get in a little bit of a postseason format.”

The team is looking to wreak havoc on the Spartans and Hawkeyes on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Illini are also excited to have Sarah Schmidt back in uniform.

Schmidt, the sophomore all-around gymnast will be competing only on the bars, as she is still trying to rehabilitate a sprained left ankle.

“It felt good to be back,” Schmidt said about her title-winning bars performance against MSU last Saturday. “I was getting tired of just sitting and not being able to do anything. I wasn’t nervous about rolling my ankle, I was just nervous in general about being back and hitting.”