No. 20 Illinois women’s gymnastics preparing for biggest challenge yet with trip to Minneapolis

By Theo Gary, Staff Writer

It’s been four weeks, and two Big Ten wins, in the opener against Missouri, since Illinois women’s gymnastics has had to compete against a program at or near its level. Traveling to Minneapolis, Minn. to face No. 19 Minnesota tomorrow, Illinois is facing a new type of challenge.   

Currently ranked No. 20 in the national standings, just a spot behind the Golden Gophers, the Illini are unworried about last year’s fourth-place team in the Big Ten.

“We’ve been preparing by having each athlete be very responsible for the details of their own gymnastics that they need to maybe make a little better and be a little cleaner. And to be honest, we’re not focusing on how good Minnesota was in the past; it’s a new year,” head coach Nadalie Walsh said. “And right now we feel like this is a meet where we can go in, and we’re still hungry to be our best. So, mentally, it doesn’t matter what opponent they’re going against, they are trying to be their absolute best.”

Last weekend, in the home win over Nebraska, the arena was loud, the stands were full and the end of each routine created an explosion of noise. But it was positive, all positive for Illinois. Obviously, in Minnesota, that won’t be the case. 

“They were not letting anything at the arena affect them,” Walsh said. “They didn’t seem to let anything penetrate the bubble that they had. They were very trusting in each other and they had a lot of fun. And happy gymnasts do better gymnastics”

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Despite the win, the happy feelings and 2-0 in the Big Ten, Illinois still needs to work on its landings. Against Nebraska, for example, junior Caitlyn Ewald fell trying to stick a landing on bars. 

“We did not stick very many landings last weekend, but we had great routines. And so now it’s gluing the stick with the routine and coming out just a little bit better,” Walsh said.

Senior Mia Takekawa had a fantastic meet against Nebraska, winning beams and bars. Going forward, Illinois needs her to perform well if it wants to reach its goals.

“She brings very flawless gymnastics,” Walsh said. “She brings incredible leadership by holding her teammates higher and pulling higher, that kind of accountability. And then she brings experience.”

During the meet against Nebraska, senior Mia Townes was injured during her floor routine. However, she will be good to go against Minnesota.

“Mia Townes is okay,” Walsh said. “She just needed to take care of herself a little bit differently than she was. Her calf is good. And we are really excited about her being able to go out there and continue leading us alongside Mia Takekawa.”

Illinois gymnastics is firing on all cylinders, it’s a question now of how they continue that in their matchup with Minnesota at 4 p.m. this Saturday.

“I feel like, if they were playing hungry hippos the game, they would be hitting that little hippo tail really fast and grabbing all those balls because they 100% are hungry to just keep excelling every single weekend,” Walsh said.


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