Illinois women's gymnastics break program record on beam

By Tyler Fedak

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Six meets into the season, Illinois women’s gymnastics head coach Kim Landrus was not seeing the progress that she wanted to see at this point in the season.

Illinois entered a Friday night matchup against Michigan State coming off back-to-back conference losses against Minnesota and Iowa. With the absence of junior Mary Jane Horth from the lineup, Landrus has been adjusting her roster to fill the events that all-around gymnast Horth usually competed in.

The loss of Horth left a hole in the beam rotation, but the Illini still posted a 49.425 in the event — the highest score in school history.

The team was led by senior Sunny Kato, who not only
won the event title with a 9.950, but also tied the school
record that she previously held. 

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    The record-setting beam performance closed out the meet for the Illini (3-4, 3-3 Big Ten), giving them the 196.300-195.575 win over the Spartans (3-6, 1-5 Big Ten).

    On the uneven bars, junior Sarah Lyons and sophomore Jordyn Givens both scored a fifth-place 9.800. It was Givens’ first competitive bars routine of the season. The Illini finished the event with a 48.775 — their third best bars total of the season.

    Senior Giana O’Connor led the Illini in the vault with a season-best 9.900 that earned her the event title — she garnered three on the night. Freshman Lizzy LeDuc followed, placing second in the event with her career-best 9.825. Illinois tied its season-best with a 49.000 total in the event.

    The Illini first started to establish a lead over the Spartans in the floor event. The team totaled a third-best 49.100 on floor behind a 9.900 event-winning performance from O’Connor. Buchanan and LeDuc both a posted 9.825 while Brielle Nguyen and Haylee Roe each produced a season-best 9.775.

    “Tonight was a total team effort,” Landrus said. “The energy was high from the first routine to the last.”

    All three all-arounders for the Illini totaled above 39.200 for the first time this season. O’Connor tied her season-best with a 39.325 and captured her final title for the night. O’Connor now has 13 titles this season and 34 career titles with Illinois. 

    LeDuc set a season-best for the third consecutive meet with a 39.300.

    The meet marked a turning point for the Illini, who have been posting scores in the lower 195’s the past few weeks. Breaking the 196 barrier puts the team on the level of higher ranked conference teams.

    O’Connor said the beginning half of the season brought out many details for the team to work on, ranging from landings to confidence in performance. The progress of working on these details over the weeks finally came out against the Spartans. Landrus said that it was obvious that the team that competed against the Spartans performed with more confidence and consistency than the team has shown all season.

    “The ‘feel’ was different. They were having fun and focusing on the process,” Landrus said. “Each event built on the one before. I could not be more proud of the positive changes I saw today.”

    Illinois will return home next Friday to take on Iowa State in Huff Hall.

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