Illini gymnast Baker named Big Ten Co-Gymnast of the Week

By James Boyd

In his return from suspension, Bobby Baker quickly showed why he was named last year’s Big Ten Gymnast of the Year.

The Illinois sophomore finished first in the all-around, and did not miss a beat after having not competed in nearly a month. The time off gave Baker the perfect opportunity to break down many of his routines, and work on tedious aspects of them.

“I think that’s the most important training honestly,” Baker said, “It allowed me to just kind of get back on track after a couple rough meets, a couple meets where I didn’t do well.”

As a result of his attention to detail, Baker recorded a career-high 15.300 on vault, and was named Big Ten Co-Gymnast of the Week along with Minnesota junior Zach Liebler. Even in his individual success, the sophomore standout gave a lot of credit to his squad.

“I think just the team as a whole did amazing. There were a lot of hits, a lot of big scores,” Baker said, “You just kind of follow the trend … If the guy before you hits and the guy before him hits, you don’t want to go up and be that guy that falls and potentially wrecks the team score.”

Chandler Eggleston injured

Last year around this time, sophomore Chandler Eggleston watched his team compete in the Big Ten Championships without him due to a torn patella tendon. In his return season, Eggleston has proven to be a key scorer for Illinois. The North Carolina native has earned multiple event crowns on vault and floor exercise, but is again suffering from injury late in the season.

Eggleston sprained his ankle just before Illinois’ six-way meet at Minnesota’s Sports Pavilion, and has not competed on floor since.

“Chandler’s ankle is doing better, he’s actually doing some floor basics,” head coach Justin Spring said. “(He) isn’t quite ready to fully be back to floor.”

Spring went on to express concern about Eggleston’s injury, and what it could mean for his team at this point in the season. The sophomore usually earns a score of 15 or above on the floor exercise, but if he is not able to compete, it could cost the Illini some valued points — especially at the Big Ten Championships.

Illinois let the Big Ten title slip out of its reach by 0.6 points last year. Spring wants all of his top gymnasts, including Eggleston, to be healthy in the homestretch of the season.

“His ankle’s killing him … He’s not right there now,” Spring said. “That’s scary because I’d like one of my best competitors to compete, but you have to earn it.”

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