Illini place at Big Ten finals

Karen+Howell+performs+her+floor+routine+during+Illinois%27+meet+against+Michigan+on+Friday+January+19%2C+2018.+Illinois+lost+to+Michigan+194.325+to+194.975.
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Illini place at Big Ten finals

Karen Howell performs her floor routine during Illinois' meet against Michigan on Friday January 19, 2018. Illinois lost to Michigan 194.325 to 194.975.

Karen Howell performs her floor routine during Illinois' meet against Michigan on Friday January 19, 2018. Illinois lost to Michigan 194.325 to 194.975.

Ethan Scholl

Karen Howell performs her floor routine during Illinois' meet against Michigan on Friday January 19, 2018. Illinois lost to Michigan 194.325 to 194.975.

Ethan Scholl

Ethan Scholl

Karen Howell performs her floor routine during Illinois' meet against Michigan on Friday January 19, 2018. Illinois lost to Michigan 194.325 to 194.975.

By Sumeya Kalib, Staff writer

The Illinois women gymnastics team entered its postseason with the Big Ten Championships at Penn State this weekend. Beating their previous season-high by almost half a point with a 196.650, the Illini placed second behind by the No. 7 Wolverines.

Illinois saw victories over No. 11 Minnesota, No. 17 Nebraska and No. 25 Penn State. It lost to Minnesota previously at the Big Five meet and to Nebraska and Penn State in respective dual meets.

Starting on bars, redshirt senior Mary Jane Otto scored a near perfect 9.975, tying her career-high last achieved in 2015 against Iowa.

She scored perfect 10’s from a pair of judges, and her routine proved to be an impressive bar performance, which won first in the event and marked a second conference title for the senior.

Junior Karen Howell followed suit with a season-high of 9.900, and sophomore Kylie Noonan bounced back with a solid 9.850, one of her highest scores since the team’s meet against Michigan State on Feb. 8.

The Illini showed consistent performance on bars again, scoring their highest score of the meet with a 49.250. All gymnasts scored a 9.800 or higher, with Otto scoring a 9.900 and freshman Shaylah Scott following with a 9.875.

On floor, Scott set the tone with a 9.850 alongside Howell, who contributed with a 9.875. Noonan then mirrored Scott’s score with a 9.850.

The Illini ended on vault with sophomore Kasey Meeks, who registered a 9.850 with a 9.950 start value. Junior Lindsay Dwyer matched her career-high of 9.800 and junior Brittany Jones closed out with a 9.725 — her second-highest score in the season.

Earlier this week, the Illini had four gymnasts selected to the Big Ten all-conference team. Otto was honored with first team all-Big Ten accolades for the third time while Meeks, Noonan and Howell had their career firsts on second team.

As for the regular season, Illinois ended with two quad meets against University of California, Davis, No. 17 Washington and Yale on March 15 and No. 16 California, San Jose State and Sacramento State on March 17. The Illini placed second in both meets, but were edged out by the Washington Huskies and the California Oskis at their respective meets.

At the UC,Davis meet, the team posted 49.000-plus scores on three out of the four events, marking a first on bars since the Big Five meet back in February. Dwyer, in particular, saw career-highs in every event she competed in this season.

On vault, she tied her 9.800 from the Illinois Classics at the California meet and earned the same score on floor. On bars, she recorded a 9.850 at the UC,Davis meet, beating her previous season-high of 9.825 from the Big Five meet.

Senior Haylee Roe, who hasn’t competed since sustaining an injury in February, came back stronger than ever with a career-high of 9.875 on beams at UC,Davis — something she hasn’t surpassed since 2017. She also scored a 9.775 on vault at California.

The team is approaching the final home stretch with NCAA regionals unfolding April 4-6 at a location yet to be announced. The NCAA Championship will be held later in the month on the 19-20 in Fort Worth, Texas.

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