Online Exclusive: Illini Women’s Gymnast Pursue Perfection

By Wesley Deberry

With their first win of the season under their belt after last Saturday’s meet against the Iowa Hawkeyes, the Illinois women’s gymnastics team entered H.E. Kenney Gymnasium for practice this week hungry for more.

“The young ladies have looked at the mistakes they made last week and attacked the individual areas they need to work on,” head coach Bob Starkell said.

The Illini hope that their pursuit of perfection will help them gain their second Big Ten victory of the season when the No. 19 Ohio State Buckeyes come to Huff Hall on Saturday. This is the second stop of a two competition road trip for the Buckeyes who come into Champaign after a win in East Lansing, Mich. over Michigan State.

Last year in Columbus, Ohio, an injury-ridden Illini team struggled against the Buckeyes and suffered a disappointing loss. This year, the Illini and Ohio State are similar in nature. Both teams are young with highly talented members.

“This meet will come down to who can best eliminate the little mistakes,” Starkell said.

Kim Kruk, winner of the all-around in last week’s meet against Iowa, said that she has worked hard this week on perfecting her routines.

“Paying attention to the little details will give us the tenths of points needed to pull ahead,” Kruk said.

Marijka Botterman, winner of the all-around in last year’s competition against the Buckeyes, is confident in her chances of a repeat performance. She has worked specifically on her landing and her routine on bars this week in practice.

Both Kruk and Botterman will need to have strong performances this weekend as the Illini are still without seniors Melissa Singer, Danye Botterman and freshman Lori Hamilton.

Danye Botterman originally hoped to return from her ankle injury in time for the Ohio State meet but, due to lack of strength in her hamstring and calf, she is unable to compete. But Botterman took a positive participating in vault during practice for the first time this week. She is expected to return within two to three weeks.

Despite the injuries to some key members of the team, Starkell does not want to hurry any members of the team back. He explained that he is very confident in the strength of his current lineup and at the present time does not want to make any drastic changes that may upset team chemistry.

A strong performance in Saturday’s meet will move the Illini a step closer to their goal of being ranked in the top 18 teams in the country for the NCAA Regional Tournament.