Women’s gymnastics bests first ranked opponent of season
January 4, 2020
The Illinois women’s gymnastics team defeated No. 16 Missouri and Southeast Missouri State, 195.850-195.600-191.250, in its season debut at Missouri.
Illinois previously competed in the Orange and Blue exhibition alongside the men’s gymnastics team and defeated in Illinois State in an exhibition in December.
Illinois led both Missouri and Southeast Missouri after the first rotation. The Illini scored 48.975 on Uneven Bars, while Missouri accumulated 48.900 on the vault. Southeast Missouri State was in third following the balance beam at 46.700.
Senior Karen Howell and freshman Mia Takekawa led the Illini in Uneven Bars, both with a score of 9.825. Junior Nicole Biondi finished tied-for-fourth alongside freshmen Olivia O’Donnell and Lexi Powe, with a score of 9.775.
Howell thought the team performed well in the meet, which was Howell’s final season debut.
“I’m just very proud about how we came together as a team today and just went out there and did our best,” Howell said. “It was a good last first meet.”
In the second rotation, Illinois went over to the Balance Beam, Missouri competed at the Uneven Bars, and Southeast Missouri State competed in Floor Exercise.
Takekawa led the Illini in Balance Beam with a score of 9.900, and Illinois kept its lead with a score of 97.825. Missouri finished the first half in second place at 97.050, and Southeast Missouri State was in third with 95.125.
To begin the latter half of the meet, Illinois went on Floor Exercise, Missouri went to the Balance Beam, and Southeast Missouri State was off to Vault.
After the third rotation, the Illini continued to hold first place with a score of 147.075, Missouri was in second with 146.250 and Southeast Missouri State was in third with a score of 142.800.
Freshman Arayah Simons led the Illini in Floor Exercise with a score of 9.900. Takekawa and Biondi tied for second with a score of 9.850.
Wrapping up the meet, Illinois went to Vault, Southeast Missouri State competed in the Uneven Bars and host Missouri competed on Floor Exercise.
Howell, Takekawa and Simons finished tied-for-fourth on vault to lead the Illini in the event.
“I think that was one of the most exciting experiences that I’ve ever had,” Takekawa said. “I think that I did pretty much what I know how to do in the gym, and it just felt really gratifying to perform.”
Head coach Nadalie Walsh thought the team performed well, especially given that the Illini began the season away from Champaign.
“I could not be more proud of the team,” Walsh said. “I’m really, really proud of the girls and how they handled their nerves and performed pretty close to the best of their ability for where they’re at right now.”