Women’s gymnastics participates in “Beauty and the Beast”


Trevor Greene The Daily Illini Illinois’ Nicole Cowart competes on the balance beam during the meet against Iowa in Huff Hall on Saturday, January 24th. The Illini fell to the Hawkeyes 194.400 to 194.950.

By Emily Bayci

This weekend will bring something different to the table for the No. 17 Illinois women’s gymnastics team. The Illini will meet No. 13 Missouri in a “Beauty and the Beast” dual on Friday, Valentine’s Day follows on Saturday, and their second annual “Pink Meet” will be held Sunday against No. 18 Ohio State.

“We never have weekends that are this exciting in gymnastics,” sophomore Allison Buckley said. “It will be really busy trying to balance everything, especially since most of us had never experienced two meets in one weekend before. Also, these meets are so unusual, which proves how gymnastics can be way more interesting than it seems.”

The inaugural “Beauty and the Beast” event hosted by Missouri will feature a gymnastics meet on one half of the gym and a wrestling match on the other half. Illinois’ head coach Bob Starkell said such an event has never been done before, and if it goes well, the Illini may host a similar competition in the future.

About 6,000 fans are expected at the event, which will raise money for the Central Missouri Food Bank. With two contrasting sports competing simultaneously, Starkell said the event will probably attract a different type of crowd and “expose them to a new viewpoint of college athletics.”

Illinois dropped a close matchup against the Tigers two weeks ago in a quad meet at Ohio State. Freshman Kelsey Joannides said the Illini want nothing more then “to give it to (Missouri) on their own turf.”

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The Illini will work for charity in their own way when they return to Huff Hall for the “Pink Meet.” The meet is held through the American Cancer Society and Colleges Against Cancer to raise awareness for breast cancer. The gymnasts on both teams will be trading in their typical leotards for pink uniforms.

“One of the coolest things about this meet is that we get new leotards with the breast cancer ribbon on them,” Buckley said.

Fans that wear pink shirts will pay no admission to the meet and the first 500 people will receive pink pom-poms. The Illini also will be throwing pink Illinois gymnastics t-shirts out to the crowd.

In addition, representatives from both the American Cancer Society and Colleges Against Cancer will be handing out information about services for mammograms and people with breast cancer.

Also showing their support will be the Illini drum line, which will perform throughout the meet.

“We modeled this meet off the University of Alabama, they started it seven years ago,” Starkell said. “What we really like about this is it provides an opportunity for the community to become involved and the team because nearly everyone is affected by someone who has been through cancer.

“Winning is important but it’s not all about gymnastics,” Starkell added.

This stands true for Joannides, whose mother is a survivor and will be at the meet.

“This is just really motivating for everyone,” Joannides said. “It is really exciting for us that we can incorporate our sport with helping people who need it.”