Gymnasts share strong friendship

Cara+Pomeroy+performs+her+floor+routine+during+the+meet+at+Huff+Hall+on+Feb.+25%2C+2007.+ME+Online%0A

Adam Babcock

Cara Pomeroy performs her floor routine during the meet at Huff Hall on Feb. 25, 2007. ME Online

By Wesley Deberry

Home sickness … broken bones … defeat. Illinois women’s gymnastics team senior captains Melissa Singer, Danye Botterman and Cara Pomeroy have triumphed over all these obstacles.

For the trio, their story began in Garner Residence Hall. Botterman and Pomeroy were roommates their freshman year, with Singer in the room directly below them. Simple games of Botterman and Pomeroy dropping books on the floor and Singer pounding on the ceiling strengthened the bond of the trio in a hurry.

“We all moved into the dorms and became best friends right away,” Pomeroy said.

The three serve as each other’s support systems. From helping Botterman getting over her freshman home sickness, to flying out to California to support Pomeroy at the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics National Tournament, the three were there for one another.

Dorm life is a distant memory, though, as the last four years have passed in the blink of an eye. On Saturday at 2 p.m., the trio will have their last meet in the friendly confines of Huff Hall as the Illini face the University of Illinois-Chicago.

A lot has changed since the first time the three walked into Huff Hall as freshmen. They have gone from nervous to calm, from young, inexperienced freshmen to veteran captains with leadership qualities.

“I think our first home meet everything was so new and we didn’t know what to expect,” Pomeroy said. “Now everything just comes natural.”

The three attribute much of their maturity to the gymnasts who came before them.

While the dynamic of the team has changed from a veteran roster to a young roster full of talent, the three understand the importance of helping their young teammates.

“The three of us try to model ourselves after those girls who were upperclassmen when we were freshmen because they were very strong leaders who led by example,” Singer said. “We try to emulate them so we can be good leaders to our underclassmen.”

Botterman, Singer and Pomeroy have played an integral part in strengthening the women’s gymnastics program. Before joining the team, the Illini had not reached the NCAA Regional Tournament since 1999. However, the trio helped break this trend and create a new one. In each of the last three years the Illini have made it to the Regional Tournament.

“We have a good shot at going to Nationals this year, but I hope that the younger girls appreciate where this team has come from,” Singer said.

The Illini are currently ranked No. 19, which is the highest ranking the trio has ever had the pleasure of being a part of. With a chance of making Nationals this year, optimism and excitement have grown among the seniors.

“To come in and prove as a team that we can compete at a top level despite all the injuries is just awesome,” Botterman said.

While things have changed a lot since the trio first walked into Huff Hall, their appreciation for the team and the collegiate athletic experience has stayed the same.

Her last home meet will be emotional, but Botterman said she will try to hold back her tears.

“I won’t cry if they don’t,” she said as Pomeroy shed a tear.

Friday’s meet will not be the story-book final home meet that the trio has dreamed of. Both Botterman and Singer have been out with injuries for most of the season. It has been an adjustment for Pomeroy not competing with her two best friends.

“It has been really hard,” Pomeroy said. “It’s definitely not as fun without people from my class competing, but they have been by me the whole time supporting me.”

While their home schedule will come to an end after Saturday’s meet, the trio will have two more regular-season opportunities to compete together before the Regional Tournament.

“It goes by fast,” Pomeroy said. “So I cherish every moment and enjoy it. It’s the best time of your life.”