Illinois women’s gymnastics to compete at Big Five Meet


Illinois’ Erin Buchanan performs a routine on the uneven parallel bars during the meet against Minnesota at Huff Hall on Feb. 7. The Illini won 195.775-195.375.

By Ashley Wijangco

The Illinois women’s gymnastics team will prepare for the postseason at Saturday’s Big Five Meet, and sophomore Erin Buchanan knows her team feels optimistic about the meet.

“We’re going in with an open mind knowing that our (No. 13 ranking) isn’t permanent,” Buchanan said. “Whatever we score this weekend can potentially — and that is what we’re aiming for — improve our RQS (regional qualifying score), which is our ultimate goal.”

The Big Ten’s 10 teams have been split into two different Big Five meets, and Illinois will be up against Maryland, No. 25 Michigan State, No. 9 Nebraska and Ohio State at the Devaney Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. 

The Illini visited the Devaney Center on March 1 for the Masters Classic, so they feel even more confident knowing they recently got a feel for the equipment there. 

“We all loved it there,” freshman Jordyn Givens said. “I know I loved the floor and the vault, so it’s just nice having been there and already seen the place.”

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Aside from Nebraska, who is hosting the competition, Illinois is the only team that has competed at the Devaney Center this season. It’s not the only advantage the Illini have over their opponents, though.

Illinois outranks all of its opponents besides Nebraska, but the Illini are No. 11 and No. 10 on the uneven bars and balance beam, respectively — both of which are better than the Huskers’ rankings. Illinois also has two ranked all-arounders (No. 11 junior Giana O’Connor and No. 20 sophomore Mary Jane Horth) to match Nebraska’s No. 10 Jessie DeZiel and No. 14 Hollie Blanske. Plus, O’Connor already bested the Huskers’ all-around duo at the Masters Classic, when she tied the program all-around record.

The Illini failed to defeat the Huskers at the Masters Classic, but if that were to be the case again Saturday, it wouldn’t matter as long as they meet their goal: making the evening session of the Big Ten Championships in one week.

If Illinois places in the top three on Saturday, it will advance to the evening session of Big Ten Championships, where the best teams usually compete. The Illini qualified for the evening session for the first time ever in 2014 and are hoping to make a return trip.

To ensure that goal is met, the Illini know it will come back to the little things.

“As a team, we’ve come together, and we’ve each put something down that we can improve on to get even a half a tenth back,” Buchanan said. “That ends up adding up insanely, like a huge amount, to not only the event score, but for the team score.”

Lately, Illinois has focused on landings. Givens said her team has done well with sticking them in practice. It’s just a matter of bringing that to the competition. 

“We’ve had a lot of good meets and definitely a ton of good practices under our belt,” Givens said. “So if we just go in there and have confidence and do exactly what we do in the gym, then we’ll be set.”

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