Women’s gymnastics make strong comeback in Chicago meet

By Daniel Johnson

CHICAGO – While it might not be the ideal time of the year to be finding its stride, head coach Bob Starkell believes that is just what his team is doing.

After five substandard dual meets, Illinois women’s gymnastics came back with a win, and more importantly, a day of routines that Starkell said the team can build upon.

“I think we’re finding out young people are really coming into their own a little bit and compete as college gymnasts,” Starkell said after the meet. “It’s taken a little while but better now than still trying to figure it out during championship time.”

One of the young gymnasts that has continued to stand out is Allison Buckley. After scoring the second-best all-around total in Illinois history last weekend against Missouri with a 39.375, Buckley topped her own score with a 39.450. Although Starkell said he was interested to see how Buckley would adjust to college gymnastics, the freshman said after the meet that her growth in the sport has come with constancy.

“My scores are reflecting (my progress) but it’s not even about scoring well, I fell like I am becoming a lot more consistent,” Buckley said.

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While Illinois’ meet was one that Starkell was pleased with, UIC head coach Peter Jansson was less content with his team’s performance.

“We knew it was going to be a dog fight, and if they opened the door for us, we might have been able to sneak in,” Jansson said. “One event seems to drop off (each week), not the same event for us, and I’m frustrated with what we did on bars. I guess I should be happy with the score, but you always want to hit all of your routines.”

Illinois took the individual event title in all four events and won three of the four outright. Starkell said that the team’s performance at the meet met almost all of his expectations, with only the balance beam being a point of contention.

“I think with the balance beam we had two sophomores that had problems today,” Starkell said after the meet. “Other than that group, the balance beam was really good, really good. All in all, we had a great team performance today.”