Illinois looks to win women’s gymnastics Big Ten championship

Mia+Townes+celebrates+after+coming+off+of+the+vault+on+Feb.+07+at+Huff+Hall.+The+Illinois+women%E2%80%99s+gymnastics+team+is+hopeful+that+they+can+win+their+first+Big+Ten+championship+this+season.+

Mark Capapas

Mia Townes celebrates after coming off of the vault on Feb. 07 at Huff Hall. The Illinois women’s gymnastics team is hopeful that they can win their first Big Ten championship this season.

By Jonah Perez, Staff Writer

The time is finally here: No. 16 Illinois has a chance to win the school’s first women’s gymnastics Big Ten Championship in over 30 years and the second Big Ten championship for an Illini team this year, alongside the men’s basketball team.

“I think it’s an opportunity that we’ve been knocking on that door for a few years,” said head coach Nadalie Walsh. “Part of knocking on the door of wanting to win a championship is actually believing that you’re capable of it and acting like it every day. So, I would say their identities are really solidified. They’re very unified, and the team that goes into this level of competition that is the most unshakable, I think, are the ones that end up on top.”

The Illini expect to do well, but there’s no inflated ego, according to junior Shaylah Scott. They understand trying their best is all they can do, and they know how tough the weekend is going to be with many other good teams in the Big Ten.

During practice this week they focused on landing and the shape of their routines. They used the same new energy and focus they had last week, which they acquired after a team meeting on the bus following a loss to Iowa.

The team also wants to capitalize on the athletics department’s recent success, which was highlighted by the men’s basketball team’s Big Ten championship. Some members of the women’s gymnastics team came into practice with hoarse voices because of how into the Big Ten Tournament’s championship game they were.

In Minneapolis, the four favorites are No. 3 Michigan, No. 7 Minnesota, Illinois and No. 18 Iowa. Iowa was the regular season champion, but any one of these squads could come out on top.

Michigan beat Illinois and Minnesota but lost to Iowa at their Big Five Meet, while Minnesota split against Michigan, Iowa and Illinois.

Iowa split with Minnesota but beat Michigan at their Big Five Meet and beat Illinois, while Illinois lost to Iowa and Michigan but split with Minnesota. The Illini lost to the Golden Gophers at the Big Five Meet but also beat them in record-breaking fashion.

The seeds are pretty much the same as they were projected at the beginning of the season. The only difference being is that Illinois is third in the Big Ten instead of Nebraska.

Their 197.575 against Minnesota improved their team National Qualifying Score from 196.444 to 196.781, enough to move them up five spots in the rankings, from No. 21 to No. 16, while also jumping from fourth to third in the Big Ten standings.

In their region, they broke their tie for fourth with No. 23 Missouri and separated themselves but are still in fourth in the South Central region behind No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 9 Arkansas and No. 11 Arizona State.

“Last year we didn’t … get a chance to compete, so I feel like now we’re peaking at the exact time we need to peak,” said sophomore Mia Townes. “Everything timing-wise has matched up perfectly because we’ve got the 197, we’re like, ‘oh, OK, we got this.’ … We’re not fearful; we’re not scared of risking it all and to put it out on the line for this championship, because we do have the capability … Nadalie always preaches to us ‘fear’s a liar,’ and all of us all stand by that, and we refuse to back down from anything.”

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Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Illinois women’s gymnastics could win their first Big Ten Championship this year. The Illinois women’s gymnastics team won the Big Ten Championship in 1990.