Gymnastics falls to Purdue on Senior Day



By Laura Hettiger

On Senior Day, somebody provided the spark that has eluded the Illini women’s gymnastics team for the entire season. Maybe it was the emotions that accompanied honoring their leaders, or maybe it was the close proximity to the campus of No. 15 Missouri, but no matter what livened-up the gymnasts, Saturday’s scores speak for themselves.

Finishing with a season-high score of 195.325, the Illini were ultimately ousted by the Tigers’ 195.400 final score. Even though the team was forced to count the meet as a loss, it was a victory in the eyes of the competitors.


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Senior Day ends in loss

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“Everyone feels a little bit of relief because we did so well,” said freshman Allison Buckley, emphasizing that wins and losses are not as important as the final team score. “It’s your score that matters. We would have loved to have won, but we scored well and that was more important to us.”

Buckley was pleased with the way her teammates competed, but knew to step up when the team needed her. Capturing her third all-around title of the season, the Schaumburg, Ill., native posted a 39.375 to tie Missouri’s Adrianne Perry. Buckley’s score also tied former Illini Kara Kapernekas’ 2003 all-around score for the second best in Illinois history.

After struggling at Auburn just 10 days ago, Buckley was hoping for revenge on the floor exercise. She wanted to erase the season-low 9.300 she received at Auburn and did so in style by winning the floor exercise with a score of 9.900. Capturing her fifth floor title of the season, teammates Sarah Schmidt (9.825) and Lindsey Smith (9.800) finished second and third, respectively.

“I hit pretty well (on Saturday),” Buckley said. “I was really happy with my routines, so I knew I would have a pretty good all-around score. I really wanted to hit my floor routine this week. I had a little extra focus, to make sure I knew what I was doing, how I was doing it.”

But Buckley wasn’t the only one excited with the way the team competed. Head coach Bob Starkell also recognized how important a score of 195.325 was for his athletes.

“We did a lot better job on some detailed things today that we haven’t done thus far,” Starkell said in a press release. “195.000 has really been a hump that we couldn’t get over this year. We know we are capable of performing at this level at any time. Hopefully getting past that sticking point will help us feel more relaxed from here on out.”

Aside from Buckley’s successful meet, Starkell had several other gymnasts make major impacts.

Schmidt, who had been sidelined by an ankle sprain suffered earlier this season, captured the uneven bars title, tying with Mizzou’s Perry with a 9.850. Junior Julie Crall also tied with Perry for the balance beam title with a score of 9.875.

After a rough week of practice, the Illini felt they answered Missouri’s challenge. The meet provided more confidence to the young Illinois team, and the gymnasts were happy to give their leaders a memorable Senior Day.

“They (Krystal Melcarek and Michelle McGrady) both work really hard inside the gym and outside the gym,” Schmidt said. “They are good leaders, and they’ll be hard to replace.”