Women’s gymnastics finds perfection against Buckeyes


Donald Eggert The Daily Illini Illinois’ Marijka Botterman is greeted by teammates after completing a vault during the gymnastics meet against Ohio State on Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at Huff Hall. Botterman scored a 9.95 on the vault, setting a new team vault record.

By Emily Bayci

A perfect meet is usually a far-fetched goal in women’s gymnastics. Hitting 24-for-24 events with no falls, no wobbles and no other slipups rarely happens.

The No. 17 Illinois women’s gymnastics team proved that perfection is possible Sunday in their dual matchup against No. 18 Ohio State, where they dominated the Buckeyes, 196.7-195.675.

Coming off a tough loss to Missouri on Friday, the Illini righted their mistakes and knew that they could do better, head coach Bob Starkell said.

Returning to Huff Hall after a month on the road, senior Marijka Botterman made a statement that it was her gym. She took the crown in the vault and uneven bars and set a new school record for the vault with a score of 9.95 – good enough for a national ranking.

“This is just the most exciting meet ever for everyone,” Botterman said. “I mean we’ve been working so hard in the gym and it just finally paid off.

“It definitely felt good to be back in Huff Hall again, we definitely felt more comfortable.”

The team had their largest home crowd of approximately 1,000 fans which could be attributed to the “Pink Meet” – an event to promote breast cancer awareness. The meet was also part of “Girl Scout Day” for the community scouts.

“A big crowd makes it better, especially for gymnasts,” Starkell chuckled. “They’re generally show-offs anyways.”

Other than senior Julie Crall, who was ill, the entire team was back at full force. Sophomore Allison Buckley and junior Sarah Schmidt had their best performances since their respective injuries. Melissa Fernandez, coming off of an ankle injury, won the beam with a score of 9.9.

“I was really happy because I hit 4-for-4 on my events both times this weekend,” Buckley said. “This proves that I am back and ready for the big competition.”

Buckley won the floor routine and the all-around competition, followed closely by junior Nicole Cowart who had her personal-best performance in the all-around.

“To get a team score like this everybody has to do well, this is our best team score in school history and you can’t do that unless everybody does a good job,” Starkell said. “I could go and say Marijka did a good fabulous job or Sarah looked great, or (Buckley) is finally back on the all-around, but you think it’s not luck; it’s success, and we just want to duplicate this meet for the rest of our lives.”