Gymnasts strive for nationals



By Wesley Deberry

After a demanding two-competition weekend, the No. 19 Illini women’s gymnastics team got some time off for rest and relaxation this week.

After some much-needed downtime, the Illini will enter Huff Hall for the last time this season on Saturday as they face the University of Illinois-Chicago.

However, Illinois-Chicago will come into Saturday’s meet having lost last Sunday to No. 16 Auburn.

The Illini would welcome a repeat performance from last year when these two teams met, as they hit 24 out of 24 routines in last year’s meet, beating Illinois-Chicago 195.300-190.775.

“It’s going to be an emotional meet because it’s our last home meet of the year,” head coach Bob Starkell said.

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“For our seniors it’s their last home meet of their career,” he said.

Junior Michelle McGrady says the Illini hope to beat their season-high score at home this weekend, and to send the seniors Cara Pomeroy, Melissa Singer and Danye Botterman out on a high note.

This weekend, though, the Illini will be without the services of Julie Crall.

Last Friday’s injury to her Achilles tendon required surgery this week.

Her return will take at least two months.

Stepping in to replace Crall this week will be either Botterman or Sarah Schmidt on vault, McGrady on balance beam, and either Pomeroy or Krystal Melcarek on floor exercise.

“It will be hard to replace (Crall) on beam because she is our top beam performer, but I think everywhere else we can pick up any lost point we might have.”

For the Illini, Saturday’s meet is just another step in keeping the momentum going as they will travel to Dekalb for the Illinois Classic, Sunday, March 25.

Currently the Illini are a tenth of a point away from being ranked in the top 18 teams for the regional tournament.

“If we keep up what we have been doing I think Nationals are definitely in our sights,” Melcarek said.