O’Connor injured, Illinois women’s gymnastics place fourth in Big Five Meet

By Tyler Fedak

Tweet: @IlliniWGym Buchanan brings home two titles from Big Five Meet #Illini

A week before the Big Ten Championships, the Illinois women’s gymnastics team got a taste of conference competition at the Big Five Meet in Columbus, Ohio.EJ

The Illini led off the meet with strong performances on beam and floor. 

On beam, senior Sunny Kato led her team with a 9.900.EJ The third-place performance from Kato marks the fifth-straight beam routine in which she has posted a 9.900 or higher. Sophomore Bridget Hodan followed Kato in the standings with a 9.875 that tied her career-high and led to Illinois’ 49.200 total on the event.EJ

Carrying the momentum from beam, the Illini went on to perform their third-best floor performance of the season. Erin Buchanan led the team with a career-best 9.925 and shared the event title with Nebraska’s Hollie Blanske. EJ

The Illini tallied a 49.250 on floor, making it the second consecutive event of the meet in which the team scored 49.200 or higher. EJThe Illini were on pace to score in the upper 196’s and place within the top three.

Unfortunately for the Illini, that was not how the rest of the meet turned out.

During the last run of her floor performance, senior Giana O’Connor suffered an injury. O’Connor remained out of competition for the vault and uneven bars rotations, leaving spots in each of the events that needed to be filled. EJ

“I think we started off really strong. On floor, Giana suffered an injury and, obviously, she’s a key component in our lineup and a very meaningful member of the team,” head coach Kim Landrus said.EJ “It was very hard to see a teammate go down, but they rallied behind and went on to vault.”

EJ

Once again, Buchanan led the Illini with a 9.900 routine.EJ From the routine, she garnered her second event title of the night.

The Illinois gymnasts struggled to produce points on the uneven bars — a trend that began two weeks ago at Lindenwood. With O’Connor out of the lineup, Landrus put Hodan into the event. EJPrior to the meet, Hodan had competed only twice on bars this season, last against Iowa a month ago.

“Bars has been a little bit of a struggle all year,” Landrus said. “We hit six routines but we just definitely need to feel shaper and crisper.”

The lack of confidence on bars led to a last-place 48.575 event total for the Illini. EJ
Landrus has confidence in mind along with other details going forward this week.

“It’s confidence. It’s all about being really crisp and hitting the handstands and sticking the landings and all of the little details that will result in a good score,” Landrus said. “I think we’ve just been lacking that a little bit.”

With the fourth-place finish, Illinois narrowly missed out on a spot in the second session of the Big Ten Championships next weekend.EJ The finish isn’t quite what Landrus was hoping to see, but she believes it won’t hinder the team’s chances to qualify for NCAA regionals.

The gymnasts will go on to compete in the first session of the championships this weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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