Women’s gymnastics prepares for Nebraska rematch, “Pink Meet”

With two meets in three days, the No. 20 Illinois women’s gymnastics team is preparing itself for three mentally and physically draining days.

With a full schedule ahead of them, the Fighting Illini find themselves starting with a rematch against No. 10 Nebraska and ending in pink. On the slate this weekend, a trip to Chicago, IL for the third annual IGI Chicago Style Invite on Friday for a quad meet against No. 10 Nebraska, No. 19 Denver, and Iowa. The squad returns home to Huff Hall on Sunday, for the second time this year, for their third annual “Pink Meet” vs. Big Ten foe No. 22 Michigan State.

“It’s going to test us mentally and physically,” head coach Bob Starkell said. “We have to quickly get into a our mental state and competition mode and there is a little less practice time (this week). But this will be good preparation for the post season where you go through preliminaries, then get a day off, then have to get back to competition with little time off in between.”

The team knows it is going to be a long weekend, but share the sentiment of its coach.

“We’ve had a shorter practice week,” senior Nicole Cowart said. “But we’re still going in and making sure we focus on the things we need. This will be something we need to get used to because the post season will be similar. It puts us in a good position for later on.”

The Illini will see some familiar faces in the Cornhuskers and Hawkeyes as they have faced off with both earlier this season. Illinois finished second in a tri-meet against Nebraska with Minnesota in January, posting a 193.375 to Nebraska’s 195.200. The team defeated Iowa 195.225-192.950, for its first win of the season two weeks ago.

“We’re approaching practice and the meet the same way we always do,” junior Samantha Perino said. “But because we faced them before you kind of know what to expect from their gymnasts and how they might come into the event. But our focus will be on our gymnastics.”

After its meet in Chicago, the squad will have a quick turn around back home to face off in a conference match-up against Michigan State. Illinois is teaming up with the American Cancer Society and Colleges Against Cancer to sponsor activities throughout the meet in order to help raise awareness about cancer. The “Pink Meet” will feature both teams wearing pink leotards and fans are encouraged to wear pink in support. The event has a special meaning to many members of the Illini squad.

“It really does mean a lot to me, the team, and coaches.” Cowart said. “Many of us have gone through personal accounts of the situation and the meet just provides us a great atmosphere to support a great cause.”

“It’s one of our favorite meets actually,” Perino added. “It’s going to be a good match-up of two teams. We’ve some friends on Michigan State, we’ll all be in pink, we’ll be doing a good thing and will try to post a good score along the way. It’ll be a lot of fun.”