Illinois gymnastics hit the road, face top competition

By James Boyd

For the past couple of weeks, Spring has repeatedly said he wants to see how his team performs against the best in the country. This Saturday, they will get a chance to show him.

“It wasn’t a full lineup. It was kind of an easy environment to do it in,” Spring said, speaking of last weekend. “This is a whole different show when we travel up to Minnesota.”

Illinois will face a slew of top competition when it hits the road this Saturday.

The Illini defeated the Golden Gophers earlier this season at the Windy City Invitational, but Minnesota is currently ranked two spots ahead of them in the NCAA standings — averaging 1.455 more points per competition.

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    National championship runner-up Stanford and Big Ten rival Iowa, along with four other teams, will join Minnesota and Illinois in the six-way meet.

    Illinois squeaked by Iowa earlier this season with a 431.150-430.850 victory. Stanford is averaging 440.590 points per meet. Illinois’ top team score this season is 436.550.

    “I still want to see a little bit more intensity and ruthless pursuit for the ownership of these routines (from) the guys I know that are going to be in lineup most likely at the end of the year,” Spring said. “

    Stanford carries an undefeated record into the competition and is coming off its most impressive outing of the season, posting a score of 447.700 in a three-way meet against University of California, Berkley and Michigan.

    Minnesota and Iowa have also performed well in their latest action.

    The Golden Gophers made school history when they recorded an all-time high, 438.500, on the road against Air Force, and Iowa finished second to defending National Champion Oklahoma in a three-way meet.

    Senior Logan Bradley said it will take the Illini’s best performance yet to walk away with the crown on Saturday, but he is confident they will carry the momentum gained from their home victory into Minneapolis.

    “It’s going to take a meet like we had this (past) weekend, and honestly, more,” Bradley said. “And we just have to realize we can’t control what the other teams do. In gymnastics, there’s no defense.”

    Sophomore Brandon Ngai will seek his fifth straight pommel horse title, after scoring a 15.600 last weekend; that mark is the highest pommel horse score in the country this season. The 17-year-old may set a new season high inside Minnesota’s Sports Pavilion.

    “He’s blowing out the NCAA, and he’s at home working a big upgrade,” Spring said, “He’s about to, maybe next weekend, start with the highest start value in the country.”

    Sophomore Chandler Eggleston and freshman Johnny Jacobson will also try to defend event titles. Eggleston, the Big Ten Gymnast of the Week, has won on vault and floor exercise for three consecutive meets, and Jacobson, Big Ten Freshman of the Week, is seeking his second career all-around crown.

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