Illinois men’s gymnastics opens season with third consecutive Windy City Invite win

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Illinois men’s gymnastics opens season with third consecutive Windy City Invite win

Illinois' Chandler Eggleston performs his routine at the meet against Michigan on March 12, 2016.

Illinois' Chandler Eggleston performs his routine at the meet against Michigan on March 12, 2016.

Daily Illini File Photo

Illinois' Chandler Eggleston performs his routine at the meet against Michigan on March 12, 2016.

Daily Illini File Photo

Daily Illini File Photo

Illinois' Chandler Eggleston performs his routine at the meet against Michigan on March 12, 2016.

By Tatiania Perry, Staff writer

While most University students were spending the end of their winter break relaxing at home, the Illinois men’s gymnastics team was out winning its third consecutive Windy City Invite in Chicago.

The Illini finished with a team score of 412.150, nearly nine points ahead of second place Ohio State.

“I would be lying to you if I didn’t say (the win) was unexpected,” head coach Justin Spring said. “The coaches and the team were a little worried that the first part of the season wasn’t going to be great — then we had those two big weeks.”

Following the Orange and Blue Exhibition, Spring made it clear that there was a lot of work to do in the five weeks before the season began.

The team returned to campus on Dec. 22. Without the distraction of finals, the gymnasts maintained a clear focus on their training, according to Spring.

“They got some really intense training done; we had some guys that weren’t even close to line up breaking in top lineup spots,” Spring said. “It was kind of a pretty amazing two weeks of training.”

The Illini took on the high bar in the first rotation of the invite with junior Tyson Bull winning the event title with a score of 14.400, and junior Chandler Eggleston following in a close second with 14.350.

Spring said he was shocked by how well his team competed in its opening rotation.

“High bar in general, if we hit that at Big Ten Championships in three months, I will be happy,” Spring said. “We stuck three dismounts, we had no falls and everyone ended the routine very clean.”

This event did seem to set the tone for the rest of the meet, with the Illini earning titles in nearly every event.

Senior Matt Foster took the pommel horse title with a 14.300 in the third rotation.

Heading into the fourth rotation, Illinois trailed Minnesota by less than a point.Sophomore Alex Diab tied with Ohio State’s Tristan Burke for the title on the rings with 14.250.

Junior Bobby Baker won the vault title with a 14.700, and sophomore Johnny Jacobson won parallel bars with 14.600 in the final rotation.

“That blew me away,” Spring said. “I think that was just unbelievable momentum for the beginning of the year.”

Spring said that after a great start at the Windy City Invite, his team is excited for the rest of their long season. He added it’s important to remember that Ohio State didn’t compete a lot of their top gymnasts, including two national team members, and Minnesota didn’t have that strong of a meet.

But after a successful showing, Spring said the team is eager to travel to Arizona State for its meet Saturday.

“Everyone takes a sigh of relief like they’ve proven that we’re going to be a good team,” Spring said. “We certainly showed a lot of people that we cannot get lazy, we cannot stop working tirelessly to upgrade.”

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