Illinois women’s gymnastics produce new season-high total, sweep doubleheader weekend

By Tyler Fedak

Tweet: @IlliniWGym boast new season-high total (196.525) and garner 8 event titles from weekend wins #Illini

The Illinois women’s gymnastic team’s season carried the high energy from the win against Michigan State into this weekend’s doubleheader versus Iowa State and Lindenwood.

On Senior nIght, senior Giana O’Connor and junior Erin Buchanan led the Illini to a season-best 49.275 floor total in the 196.525-195.625 RBhome win over Iowa State. In their second consecutive season-high-totaling meet, the Illini garnered event titles in the all-around and every event besides vault.

O’Connor, who ranks 15th in the nation and fifth in the Big Ten in the all-around, tallied a season-high 39.525 total, featuring a career-best 9.925 on the beam, which tied senior Sunny Kato for the beam title.

The gymnasts continued to excel on beam, scoring a 49.300 that ranks fourth in program record books.

“We had a strong start on vault and kept building from there,” head coach Kim Landrus said. “I emphasized that ‘this is a process’ and it is important that we take one step at a time. It was evident that we took that next step today.”

Illinois continued to take it one step at a time in its second matchup of the weekend against Lindenwood.

After a low-scoring uneven bars rotation to start off the meet, the No. 24 Illini rebounded with a season-high vault routine that set the pace for the team to come away with the 195.875-193.550 win.

“I feel like, today, a lot of things came together and unfortunately some things didn’t,” Buchanan said. “I’m proud of the beam because that’s something that’s been really strong for us; on vault it just feels nice to get back out there and do that vaults that I know I’ve been able to do.”

Buchanan performed a season-best 9.875 on vault to share the event title with O’Connor. The two gymnasts placed first and second in the all-around, O’Connor garnering the title for the third consecutive meet. Freshman Lizzy LeDuc followed. LeDuc, who has seen a successful all-around performance the past few weeks, stumbled on the bars to start the meet.

“After I fell, I felt a little discouraged, but then I saw my other teammates screaming, cheering and keeping the energy up, so that helped me,” LeDuc said. “I forgot about bars and just took on the next event and did what I know how to do.”

LeDuc said she trusted her practice and focused on having fun going forward in the meet. This strategy paid off as LeDuc went on to produce a career-best 9.925 beam routine that tied Kato for first in the event. The team totaled a 49.400 in the second-best total in program history.

On the weekend, the Illini (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten) collected eight titles and came away with a season-high total. Buchanan attributes the strong performance between this weekend and the last to the team being in sync throughout the meets.

“I think each one of us, we’re on the same page, no matter what book it is,” Buchanan said. “We have each other’s backs in every single way so if we have a mistake, we still stick together and get the job done on the next event.”

Going forward, the Illini prepare for this week’s Illinois Classic and the Big Ten Championships in the following weeks. Landrus said that the team needs to keep pushing the bar to get where they want to be to finish off the season.

“We’ve just got to tune it up a little bit then I think we will get where we want to get,” Landrus said. “We just need to make sure we hold ourselves to very high standards in practice so when we go out to the meet, we’re confident.”

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Sources: fightingillini.com, bigten.org, ncaa.com