Illinois men’s, women’s gymnastics preview season with annual Orange v. Blue meet


Sydney Laput

Junior all-around Ethan Boder performs on the pommel horse during the Orange and Blue meet on Friday.

By Jonathan Alday, Assistant Sports Editor

Ahead of the start of their respective seasons, the Illinois men’s and women’s gymnastics teams teamed up and battled each other in the annual Orange v. Blue meet at Huff Hall on Friday.

Donning their team’s respective versions of their orange and blue uniforms, the men’s and women’s teams were split in half, each team facing off against a familiar face but alongside an uncommon teammate. Each event table hosted special Illinois Athletics guest judges, such as Illinois swim & dive head coach Jeana Kempe and women’s basketball sophomore guard Adalia McKenzie rating the ‘wow’ factor of each routine, with a simple majority giving the respective team the point.

While the Blue team’s routines seemed equally as impressive early, the Orange team consistently put on an aesthetically pleasing visual performance that the judges gravitated towards.

By the start of the second rotation, the Blue team found themselves in a 1-6 hole, with graduate student Mallory Mizuki taking a sole point from the Orange team on the balance beam.

The Blue team dominated throughout the rest of the second and the third to make the meet 6-6. Senior All-American Connor McCool put an end to the Blue run by putting on a show on the floor, the event in which he gained All-American honors in 2021, snatching a point away from junior Amari Sewell late in the third rotation, giving the orange team the lead back.

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The Blue team wasted no time to tie the score back up as sophomore Kadyn Fitzgibbon took the win over senior Olivia O’Donnell on the floor.

The meet went back and forth, and despite taking a nasty fall on the high bars, freshman Ryan Vanichtheeranont took the win over fellow freshman Kyle Mayotte to make the meet 9-8. Senior All-American Mia Takekawa tied it up again 9-9 on the uneven bars, taking the meet down to the final event, the still rings.

Sophomore Yan Inhaber-Courchesne showed incredible control and strength on the rings for the Blue team but was unable to stick the dismount. With the Orange team’s hopes on his back senior All-American Ashton Anaya, showed all those in attendance why he earned his All-American honors in the event last year. Posing while suspended and showing immense control and concentration, Anaya capped off the performance with his feet flat on the mat, giving his team the point and the 10-9 win.

“Today is just that first opportunity to compete in front of a crowd,” interim men’s head coach Daniel Ribeiro said. “There’s not so much of a goal today … reflect on how today goes so we can make the right moves moving forward into season. This is a great opportunity to test our preparedness and to see where we need to put most of our effort into.”

While the meet itself was primed for competition, each gymnast took the opportunity to grow with each other, have fun and shake off the rust on what’s bound to be a promising season for both teams.


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