Women’s gymnastics springs toward Regionals

On Monday afternoon the No. 13 Illinois women’s gymnastics team garnered the No. 3 seed in the Central Regional for the upcoming 2010 National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships. The Fighting Illini will travel to Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, April 10 for the second consecutive season.

Joining Illinois will be No. 1 Alabama, the top seed in the region and No. 12 Nebraska, the No. 2 seed. Illinois also faces host No. 20 Kentucky, No. 24 Central Michigan and Big Ten foe Michigan State in the Central Regional.

“I think we were seeded pretty well,” head coach Bob Starkell said. “Actually, as a staff we predicted exactly where most of the schools were going to end up, so it’s kind of what we expected.

“But it’s a great place to be, where we competed last year, and there’s an advantage to having a No. 1 Alabama to measure up against, to see what it’s going to take for us to get to the next level next year and beyond.”

Bouncing back

After entering conference championships with high expectations, a sixth-place finish was not what the team was expecting.

“At the beginning of the week, we were pretty disappointed,” senior Nicole Cowart said. “Our energy wasn’t that good. But we kind of just came in and said, ‘Look, there’s nothing we can do about last weekend now.’ But the good thing is it doesn’t factor in whether we go to Regionals and how we do there, we control that.”

With last weekend behind them, the team plans on using some extra time off between meets to run a simulated event, ensuring that they keep up with their meet routines.

All-American down, maybe not out

Medical tests on Monday showed no major injury to Melissa Fernandez. However, Starkell said the 2009 All-American is still day-to-day.

“Right now it is still inconclusive,” Starkell said. “We’ll try testing it in the next couple of days and see how she feels. It could be that we could go up to the last day before we know we have her in the lineup or not. We may even have her in there for a certain event instead of competing in the all-around.”

After completing her vault routine at the Big Ten Conference Championships, Fernandez injured her leg on the landing and sat out the final two events at the meet. As one of the four all-around competitors for the Illini this season, Fernandez has consistently improved, having reset her personal best all-around score four times.

Stepping up

With the injury to Fernandez, Illinois needed others to step and provide a spark.

With an opening on the beam, freshman Alina Weinstein moved into the lineup at Big Tens and scored a 9.800 — a performance that impressed the coaching staff. With Fernandez still on the mend, Weinstein will be practicing this week knowing there may be a chance for her to see more action in the lineup.

“When I’m not supposed to compete, I really hope I don’t,” Weinstein said. “An injury is something no one ever hopes for. But this week I am going to prepare almost like any other week. The routines are there, but it’s just about getting the mindset of competition mode, and so for the rest of week I’ll keep in mind that this one really counts.”