Gymnastics extinguish Flames on Senior Night

Dean Santarinala

Dean Santarinala

By Emily Bayci

Fans anxiously awaited the start of the Illinois women’s gymnastics meet Saturday afternoon, wondering if the No. 15 Illini would rebound from their worst meet of the season. The silent gym quickly turned to loud cheering and energetic high fives as the Illini defeated the University of Illinois-Chi…Fans anxiously awaited the start of the Illinois women’s gymnastics meet Saturday afternoon, wondering if the No. 15 Illini would rebound from their worst meet of the season. The silent gym quickly turned to loud cheering and energetic high fives as the Illini defeated the University of Illinois-Chicago. But at the conclusion of the meet, the mood became more emotional.

For seniors Marijka Botterman, Julie Crall, Kim Kruk and Lindsey Smith, this was the last regular season home competition of their careers.

“It’s hard to believe that this was our Senior Night,” Crall said. “But the season’s not over yet, and we still have a lot of work to do.”

The seniors left their mark on Huff Hall, as the Illini posted their second best score of the season, defeating UIC 195.925-193.725 and hit 24-of-24 routines with no falls and no missed landings.

Sophomore Allison Buckley had her best meet of the season, taking three individual titles, including the all-around competition with a score of 39.275. Buckley also tied for the vault title.

“My performance today really proved that I’m back in action,” Buckley said. “I have definitely not done my best on the vault this season and today, I was completely on top of my form.”

Junior Sarah Schmidt won her third bars title of the year with a 9.825, while Buckley, junior Nicole Cowart and sophomore Melissa Fernandez all tied for second at 9.775. On the balance beam, Buckley tied her career best and the second-best score in school history with a 9.925. Freshman Kelsey Joannides and junior Sarah Schmidt posted 9.875 on the floor exercise, tying for the title.

Head coach Bob Starkell was proud of his athletes because “everybody hit their events, even the exhibitioners and that never happens.”

The seniors said they were happy that their Senior Night was a success and they were able to be part of the program for four years.

Starkell said he knows that the program will not be the same without the seniors, but he realizes that the most important part of the season is still to come.

“Overall, today was a good performance, not that many great things but a lot of good things and now we are gonna strive for more great things because we want it to be really difficult for the judges to take any points off of us,” Starkell said. “I want these seniors and the team to end this season with a win in the Big Ten Championships because it is possible.”