Team drops 11-season winning streak, places second

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Team drops 11-season winning streak, places second

Mary Jane Otto transitions on the bar event on Jan. 19. Illinois beat Maryland 195.075-194.950 at home.

Mary Jane Otto transitions on the bar event on Jan. 19. Illinois beat Maryland 195.075-194.950 at home.

Photo courtesy of Illini Athletics

Mary Jane Otto transitions on the bar event on Jan. 19. Illinois beat Maryland 195.075-194.950 at home.

Photo courtesy of Illini Athletics

Photo courtesy of Illini Athletics

Mary Jane Otto transitions on the bar event on Jan. 19. Illinois beat Maryland 195.075-194.950 at home.

By Sumeya Kalib, Staff writer

The Illinois women’s gymnastics team competed in the State of Illinois Classic this past weekend against Northern Illinois, Illinois State and University of Illinois at Chicago. The Illini slipped under the Flames in a narrow loss of 196.075-196.150, breaking their 11-season winning streak at the meet.

The Illini brought forth their best efforts, beating their previous season-high team score of 195.650, a season-high on floor of 49.250 and tied for their program’s second-highest beam score of 49.400 last achieved in 2016.

Vault was led by sophomore Kasey Meeks with a 9.825 which tied her for second place in the event, while junior Lindsay Dwyer and redshirt Mary Jane Otto followed with 9.800’s.

However, the team soon met its challenge on bars when it began to trail behind UIC. Junior Morgan Bixler brought the lineup back up with a 9.775 while seniors Otto and Rachael Donovan finished the event with a 9.850 and 9.800 respectively.

Producing the program’s second-highest beam score meant there were some career-high performances. According to head coach Nadalie Walsh, she could see the team’s confidence has “solidified” on the event.

Newcomer Rachel Borden set the tone with a 9.875, beating her career high from last weekend against Denver. Freshman Shaylah Scott followed suit, edging out her Denver career high with a 9.925, and Otto produced the same score, beating her career high from back in 2017.

Having trailed to third place after the rotation, it was up to the floor lineup to leave a strong impact for the Illini. Three 9.900’s from Scott, junior Karen Howell and sophomore Kylie Noonan all tied them for second place on the event and helped beat out Northern Illinois for second place at the meet.

A familiar face on the team, Otto won her eighth beam event and third all-around title. However, that did not stop newcomers like freshmen Erin Weisel and Torie Stotz from making their debut exhibitions on bars and floor respectively, with Weisel scoring a 9.725.

Even veteran faces on the team made their appearances.

Junior Brittany Jones managed to stand out in what was her first season competing with the team. Before this meet, she had only performed a beam exhibition at the meet against Penn State back in February. She was able to prove herself a contender for the Illini with a 9.650 on her vault debut and a 9.725 on beam.

“I am so grateful for Brittany (Jones),” Walsh said to Illinois Athletics. “She had a great mentality shift this year. I knew she was going to go out and hit vault, but getting the opportunity to go up on beam makes your heart feel warm for somebody that has trained years for this moment.”

The Illini are beginning to wrap up their regular season with two quad meets in California. Their first is on Friday against UC-Davis, Stanford and Washington, with this meet being the first time they face the UCD Aggies. On Sunday, they face No. 14 California, San Jose State, and Sacramento State, facing the California Bears for the first time in 26 years.

Despite the loss, the score from the Classic proved to Walsh the team has an unstruck potential for these next meets.

“For us to have our best team score with still counting mistakes just gives me a lot of hope and excitement to go to California and do even better,” Walsh said.

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