Illinois women’s gymnastics head to Big Five Meet

By Tyler Fedak

Tweet: [email protected] prep for Big Ten Championships with Big Five Meet #Illini

The season may be nearing its end for the Illinois women’s gymnastics team, but with two conference meets and the national championships approaching, the team is just getting warmed up.

The Illini are fresh off four straight wins, including their State of Illinois Classic win last weekend. Illinois took on three other in-state teams in the largest meet of their season thus far. Kim Landrus liked where the Classic fell in the schedule because the Illini are taking on more and more teams each week going forward.

“I think (the Illinois Classic) definitely was great preparation — we didn’t alternate performances, there was a lot of noise, floor music was going on the whole time,” head coach Kim Landrus said.

Landrus is confident that the Illinois Classic prepared her team for the Big Ten Championship, regionals, nationals and, more urgently, this weekend’s Big Five meet.

The Big Ten conference splits the end-of-season gymnastics competition up into two five-team meets before heading into the Big Ten Championships next weekend. No. 23 Illinois will compete in the Big Five meet against No.16 Nebraska, Michigan State, Maryland and Ohio State.

Although the Illini (3-3 Big Ten) have taken on six conference teams this season, they’ve only seen one of this weekend’s competitors. The Illini posted a season-high in their 196.300-195.575 win over Michigan State a few weeks back.

Following Michigan State, the Illini posted another season-high 196.525. Since then, the team has drifted back into the 195’s and has remained there for the past two meets.

A main factor in the team’s dying momentum is the bars rotation. The team has had two gymnasts fall on bars for the past two meets, which delivers a hefty blow to the team total and the team’s confidence. Senior Sunny Kato knows her teammates can perform like they do in practice, it just comes down to them giving everything they’ve got when they’re competing.

“I believe in the girls and I know we have the potential to do great things. I just hope that, when we actually get to the venue and we are ready to perform, that we’re 100 percent there and that we’re 100 percent committed,” Kato said. “I hope that, for the postseason now, everyone’s excited and confident to go out there.”

The Illini are going into end-of-season competition ranked top-16 nationally in two events.

On floor, the team ranks No. 16 and boasts a regional qualifying score (RQS) of 49.155 for the event.

The Illini have been consistently led in floor competition by senior Giana O’Connor. O’Connor is ranked No. 25 on floor with a 9.895 RQS. More impressive is her performance in the all-around, where she is ranked No. 18 with a 39.315 RQS.

On the beam rotation, the Illini have recently found their niche. They rank No. 8 on beam, with a 49.200 RQS. The team has posted totals of 49.150 or higher the past four meets.

Illinois’ beam performance is greatly aided by Kato, who ranks No. 5 on beam with a 9.910 RQS and has posted a 9.925 or better the past three meets. She heads into the upcoming Big Ten meets looking to push the ceiling on her beam routine and hoping for Illinois to come away on top.

“My goal of being Big Ten Champs is always going to be there, and qualifying to nationals will always be there,” Kato said. “I’m hoping that we do what we’re capable of doing and hope for the best.”

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