Illinois women’s gymnastics unconcerned ahead of Rutgers dual


Photo courtesy of @IlliniWGym Twitter

All-around Arielle Ward on the balance beam during the first couple weeks of practice for the 2022-2023 season. Newcomer Ward earned first place on the vault during Saturday’s game match against Rutgers.

By Theo Gary, Staff Writer

Illinois women’s gymnastics is in Piscataway, NJ this Saturday to open Big Ten play against Rutgers gymnastics. The Scarlet Knights, coming off a 194.675 to 190.100 win over Fisk, hold a dominating 3-6 record, having beaten big time Gymnastics schools like Ball State and Wisconsin-OshKosh. 

“I think that if you just look in general at our team’s scores the last couple of weeks, we’ve outscored (Rutgers) by more than a point… So, I am not really concerned about Rutgers,” Illinois head women’s gymnastics coach Nadalie Walsh said.

 Over that last week, Illinois came-up second in the Arizona Quad Meet, finishing behind Arizona and ahead of Texas and Bowling Green. The Illini finished with 195.725 points, .15 behind the first place Wildcats and nearing one ahead of Rutgers. If things had gone just a little differently, if one of the judges had just had a little more coffee that morning, then Illinois would be in a very different, winning, position. 

“Our teams fought hard this last week,” Walsh said. “They had a great meet, it’s just sometimes you go to an arena and they just don’t give out bigger scores. So you have to go back to the gym and clean it up even more.”

A freshman, the new arrival, Arielle Ward, the All-Around gymnast from Frisco, TX, finished first for the Illini on vault, scoring a 9.825. Not just there, in Arizona, did she perform. It’s been all season; against Missouri, too. 

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“She’s got ice in her veins, she’s really good at controlling her controllables and she has some very big gymnastics,” Walsh said. “So having her as a freshman make this debut, and so just really lead our team on some of the events that she’s doing, has been really fun to watch. We really trust her.”

If Ward performs, and everybody else does too, then Illinois should have no trouble going on the road and beating Rutgers gymnastics this Saturday.

“I only want my athletes to do what they’ve been training and show up and be very precise and very unified on the sidelines so that their teammate could feel the energy from everybody that’s watching them,” Walsh said. 


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