Consistency gives Illinois women’s gymnastics a season opener win


Photo courtesy of Illini Women's Gymnastics Instagram

Gymnast Abby Mueller does her routine on the floor during the meet against Michigan on Feb. 2. The Illini won their meet against CMU 194.150-193.425.

By Jonathan Alday, Staff Writer

Illinois took on the Central Michigan University Chippewas in both of its season openers at McGuirk Arena in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

The first rotation started with CMU on the vault while the Illini performed on the bars.

CMU started the meet off strong, staying consistently within the 9.700 range in their scores, finishing off the event anchored by Katie Kowalski posting a 9.825, the event high.

The Illini started the bars strong with seniors Rachel Borden and Mallory Mizuki posting 9.825. While a nasty fall by sophomore Amelia Knight and a one point landing deduction by fellow sophomore Allie Morgan looked to have put a dent into their start. Despite the deduction of what would have been a high score, junior Olivia O’Donnell brought the team back up with score of 9.750.

The second rotation saw the Illini match CMU’s overall score on the vault, carried by a 9.800 score by Borden and freshman Ruthuja Nataraj in her Illini debut.

Nataraj substituted for sophomore Kaitlyn Ewald, who had a minor injury that took her out of the competition. 

“The culture of the program is next person up, next person ready,” said head coach Nadalie Welsh. “Their teammates have to see what they’re going to do in the meet, in practice and that is how that trust is built.”

CMU started off the bars strong with Adriana Bustelo’s 9.800 score but failed to stay consistent throughout the rest of the event due to deductions by CMU’s Benna Hauser and Adriana Hammond, giving away the early lead over the Illini.

The score at the halfway mark had the Illini with a slim lead over the Chippewas, 96.775 – 96.925.

During the third rotation had the Illini start on the floor while CMU were on the balance beam.

CMU had a strong performance on the event as they had three back-to-back 9.800 scores by Bustelo, Kowalski and Aleysia Kolyvanova. However, their consistency issues arose again as they failed to capitalize after two low 9.000 scores brought down their early success.

The Illini got to work on the floor as they posted two back to back 9.750 performances by sophomore Abby Mueller and junior Mia Takekawa.

Knight had an Illinois high of 9.825 in her floor routine to help widen Illinois’ lead by the end of the third rotation.

Heading into the final rotation, CMU needed to outperform Illinois by 0.1 to come out of the event with a win. While starting off strong with a 9.725 by Kolyvanova, the Chippewas failed to stay in bounds on multiple occasions and a fall by Kowalski gave them multiple deductions, hurting their chances of winning the meet.

Illinois, on the other hand, stayed consistent and expanded their lead, led by Mizuki, who also substituted in for Ewald, gave the event best score of 9.825, helping secure the Illini their first win of the season.

“We have expectations in our sport every day, our room for error is very small, it’s not easy,” Welsh said. “We have a culture of excellence and wanting to make the most of every single challenge.”

The Illini left Mount Pleasant with a 194.150 – 193.425 win over the CMU Chippewas.

These two teams will meet again when Illinois hosts Central Michigan, Boise State and Northern Illinois at Huff Hall on March 4.

“Our team tends to be underestimated,” said Welsh. “The team is ready to do whatever it takes to put in the work, build the trust and be the best that we can be.”

Next up, Illinois travels to Kent, Ohio to take on Kent State University and Northern Illinois in a tri-meet on Jan. 16 at 12 p.m.

See the final scores here and watch the meet back here.



[email protected]