Gymnastics takes 2nd at quad meet


Sarah Schmidt competes on bars against Iowa in Huff Hall on Jan. 24. Erica Magda

By Emily Bayci

The outcome was a mystery for everyone at the Illini women’s gymnastics quad meet in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday night. No. 15 Illinois did not know what to expect going up against closely ranked No. 13 Missouri, No. 14 Iowa and Michigan State.

Illinois, bringing back three injured athletes in sophomores Allison Buckley and Melissa Fernandez and junior Sarah Schmidt, had problems staying consistent en route to taking second place behind Missouri (195.375-194.575). Michigan State and Ohio State followed closely behind with scores of 194.5 and 193.825, respectively. The injured athletes worked to ease back into competition; Buckley competed in the all-around for the first time this season, and Fernandez competed on beam, bars and vault. Schmidt stuck to the bars, where she aided the Illini in posting their season-high score of a 49.

“Going into the season, the bars were our weakest event,” head coach Bob Starkell said. “However, we have been improving in them each week and they are becoming one of our strong suits.”

The Illini posted their lowest score of the season on the beam, despite Fernandez taking home the beam crown with a career-high tying 9.825.

“I was just really calm and hit all of my skills,” Fernandez said of her performance. “It felt good to make a difference for the team as a whole and to be an example.”

Buckley was not as successful in her return to the vault, which was the team’s final and worst event. Starkell said that Buckley committed the only major mistake of the meet.

“Allison wanted the opportunity to return to all-around early in the season, so we put her as the anchor and now she is just getting the kinks out early,” Starkell said.

The other all-around competitors were freshman Kelsey Joannides and junior Nicole Cowart. Tying her season-high score of 39.175, Cowart took second because of “a positive attitude and consistency,” she said.

The Illini have an upcoming meet in Chicago this weekend, where they will compete in the Illinois Gymnastics Institute – Chicago Style Invite at Navy Pier. Part of one of the largest women’s gymnastics invitational’s in the world, the second annual IGI “Chicago Style” club gymnastics meet will have Illinois compete along with Illinois-Chicago, Michigan State and Boise State. Fernandez said that she knows the Illini will be strong and confident at the invitational.

“We are really excited about the opportunity to compete here,” she said. “We are just going to keep building on what we have been doing.”