Women’s gymnastics takes first in every event at ISU

By Wesley Deberry

The heavily favored No. 23 Illinois women’s gymnastics team entered Horton Field House in Normal Ill. Sunday with the swagger of a champion.

As the meet began the Illini wasted no time in showing why they were such a heavy favorite, scoring a 48.850 on vault taking to take an early lead over Illinois State with a 47.525, and Wisconsin-La Crosse with a 45.925 after the first rotation.

Junior Michelle McGrady started things off for the Illini on vault a score of 9.75.

“She has been strong for us early in the last couple of weeks,” head coach Bob Starkell said. “That is the key to our events.”

After McGrady set the tone early, the Illini coasted to a convincing victory, scoring a 194.675 to Illinois State’s 187.825 and Wisconsin-La Crosse’s 184.171. Though the Illini won the meet, they were not as crisp as they would like.

“We had a major mistake on bars and floor, but luckily we did not have to count them in our team score,” Starkell said. “Also one thing that we didn’t do quite as well as in the past is sticking our landings.”

Despite some mistakes, the Illini still dominated Sunday’s meet taking home first place titles in every event.

Sophomore Julie Crall won vault and the floor exercise with a 9.85 on vault and a 9.825 balance beam. Freshmen Nicole Cowart, Sarah Schmidt and sophomore Marijka Botterman had a three-way tie for first place on the uneven bars with a score of 9.8. Schmidt also won floor exercise with a score of 9.8, while Cowart took home the all-around title for the Illini with a score of 39.0.

“Nicole Cowart and Sarah Schmidt did well,” Starkell said. “They were our two outstanding performers.”

Starkell said he was pleased to see that his team challenged themselves even though they were not facing elite competition. He was especially pleased to see that the extra time that was put into perfecting the floor performances during last week’s practice yielded improvement.

“If anything, the one area I can say we improved on from last week was floor performance,” Starkell said.

Sunday’s score of 194.675 is monumental for the Illini as it helps boosts their regional qualifying score and puts them one step closer to being ranked in the top 18 teams for the regional tournament.

“We are hoping that it will bump us up into the top 20 but we are not sure,” Cowart said. “We will have to wait and see.”

The Illini will have another chance to boost their qualifying score Friday as they return to Huff Hall to face Auburn at 7 p.m.