Women’s gymnastics ready for shot at Big Ten title


Wenyuan Chen

Illinois’ Lizzy LeDuc performs a routine on the balance beam during the State of Illinois Classic at Huff Hall on Saturday, March 5, 2015. The Illini claimed victory for the ninth consecutive year with a total of 195.425 over Northern Illinois (194.225), UIC(192.625) and Illinois State (191.500).

By Danielle Williams, Staff writer

Illinois women’s gymnastics has been anticipating this moment for a while now.

It has finally arrived.

The Big Ten Championships are on Saturday, and the team is ready to compete for its shot at winning the tournament in Piscataway, New Jersey.

“Big Tens is the best meet of the year because every team in our conference is there,” senior Mary Jane Horth said. “A lot of our families come, and it’s just a fun atmosphere. It’s where our team comes together the most.”

The Illini are coming off a strong showing over the weekend, placing second at the Big Five meet, coming within .2 points of Nebraska, who took first.

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At the Big Five meet, Illinois scored its second-highest in program history on floor, 49.450, which locked them into a top-three finish.

All of the Illini who performed during the floor rotation got a career or season-high.

The team is looking to build off of that hype and continue the momentum and energy it had during its run to the Big Ten championships.

“Nailing that score on floor last weekend at State Farm (Center) was exhilarating but I think we need to hit the reset button,” head coach Kim Landrus said. “We need to keep what was so exhilarating but make sure we stay focused and perform those routines at such a level the judges won’t have anything to say.”

Momentum and consistency is something the team will look to maintain if it comes across any setbacks over the course of the competition, which it placed eighth in last year.

“The floor rotation score from Big Fives really built up our confidence and helped gained momentum for us,” Horth said. “We want to carry that feeling going into Big Tens. We want to go in there and translate what we do in practice over to Rutgers. If we do that, we’ll be happy regardless of the outcome.”

Earlier this week, Horth and Lizzy LeDuc earned first-team All-Big Ten honors, while Bridget Hodan and Brielle Nguyen garnered second-team All-Big Ten honors.

Landrus said this is a reflection of the team’s success this season and the work it is putting in to ensure that it has a successful postseason.

“Going into the Big Tens, we want to hit our routines and do our jobs,” Hodan said. “There’s not much we can control besides that. I’m hoping we go out as a team, strong and confident.”

The Illini will be in the afternoon session — thanks to their top-three finish at the Big Five meet — and will attempt to mirror their success at the Big Ten championships.

“Our plan is to go out there, be aggressive and do what we know how to do,” Landrus said. “Our word this week is purpose. We’re going to go into New Jersey with a purpose in sticking to Illinois gymnastics.”

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