The Daily Illini

Illinois women’s gymnastics loses a close meet to Michigan

Twenty-three years and counting.

A mere difference of 0.225 separated the Illinois women’s gymnastics team from achieving a win over Big Ten rival Michigan this weekend, which extended the Illini’s losing streak against the Wolverines to 39 meets.

“It’s really hard when you lose by that little,” head coach Kim Landrus said. “And I have to say that our girls are in it till the end.

“Although we’re disappointed that we didn’t come out with a W, we went out and did really great routines — hit 23 for 24 routines. And I’m very, very proud of the girls and how they handled the situation tonight.”

The Illini began the meet on vault while the Wolverines started on the uneven bars, their best event statistically; however, bars proved to be a problem as Michigan posted a season low of 48.725. This allowed Illinois to take the lead early on with a 48.950 on vault, but it was the only lead it held.

After losing the lead on the uneven bars, the Illini bounced back, as the balance beam continued one of their strongest events. Their 48.950 beam score tied their vault score for their best of the night. Sophomore Giana O’Connor, seniors Amber See and Elizabeth McNabb and junior Sunny Kato all stuck their beam dismounts.

Coming into the final rotation, Illinois was down 146.950-146.675, which meant a strong finish on the floor routine could seal the victory.

Junior Jordan Naleway began floor with a 9.700 followed by junior Kelsi Eberly’s 9.775. Senior Sarah Fiedler topped both juniors’ scores with a 9.800. Next up was O’Connor, who took an 8.725 due to an incomplete tumbling pass and out-of-bounds deduction. The mishap, though, didn’t affect freshman Erin Buchanan, the next gymnast in the lineup.

“Just to do everything we’ve practiced is what I was told,” Buchanan said. “Stay focused and don’t change anything just because someone else did something differently. That’s what we work for.”

Buchanan scored a team-high score of 9.825, and See earned a 9.800 to complete the event. This wasn’t enough to overcome Michigan’s prowess, even with the Illini’s 48.850 finish on the balance beam. Illinois took a 195.800-195.575 loss for its second defeat of the season.

This was also the first meet in which no Illini won individual event titles, but an Illini did place in each one. O’Connor took second on vault with a 9.850. Kato was third on bars and tied for second on beam with scores of 9.800 and 9.825, respectively. McNabb was also second on beam. On floor, Buchanan placed third with a 9.825.

The Illini place major emphasis on ironing out details, but nonetheless lost by a narrow margin. Landrus feels their emphasis is in the right place, and that they just have to keep working.

“We just have to keep on doing what we’re doing, and I feel like the recipe that we’re doing is working,” Landrus said. “We had so many good routines, it’s hard to even pick out one, so I think we have to stay on our track and know that our focus is towards the end of the season. We have to continue to build.”

Ashley can be reached at [email protected] and @wijangco12.

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