Buckley’s record-setting performance not enough for Illini win

The No. 23 Illinois women’s gymnastics team has made a habit this season to continually improve on its score from the previous week. Now the Illini are making it a habit to change the record books every time they compete.

The No. 23 Illinois women’s gymnastics team has made a habit this season to continually improve on its score from the previous week.

Now the Illini are making it a habit to change the record books every time they compete.

Saturday night against no. 17 Penn State, junior Allison Buckley set the Illinois all-time record in the all-around with a 39.525 and captured the vault title, placing her into sole possession of fifth place on the school’s career event titles list. Despite the record setting day, the Nittany Lions managed to escape with a 196.425-196.275 win over the Illini.

“I went four for four, no falls, and just improved my bars a bit,” Buckley said. “(The coaches and I) talked in practice about some of the small changes I could make, and I was able to do that. It was nice to see those small changes. I had a great performance I am really happy about.”

Following a day which the Illini posted several season-high scores, the team isn’t down about its performance, despite the loss. Junior Melissa Fernandez set a personal career high in the all-around for the second straight week with a 39.250. Senior Sarah Schmidt also had a career day, posting a personal-best 39.400 in the all-around, good for fifth-best in Illinois history, while also garnering the floor crown.

“We had probably three to four great performances on every event,” head coach Bob Starkell said. “In the sport of gymnastics, details are key. We probably lost on a step on the landing. Other than that, we held our own, beat them in two events and were very close in the other two.”

The Illini posted season-high scores as a team on the floor with a score of 49.175 and the bars with a 49.175. The season-high floor score was good enough to take the event as a team. The squad also won the battle on the vault.

Schmidt used her performance from last week as base to build off, something the team has successfully done all season long. For the sixth straight week, the team bested the previous week’s score.

“After last week, I figured what I was able to do,” Schmidt said. “I did better with my confidence and hit better. I went into practice this week not thinking about whether or not I could hit, but rather how I could improve. Plus all of my teammates were great on the events before me, so no pressure on me.”

In the end, Starkell and the team left College Park, Pa., with something more valuable than a win.

“Tough competition and away from home,” Starkell said. “This was, in fact, a postseason environment, so I think we really took advantage of the situation, going against a top-ranked team on the road. It’s the kind of meet that should help us later on.”