Illini women’s gymnastics topples Buckeyes in suspenseful ending

Before the last rotation of the meet between No. 19 Illinois and No. 11 Ohio State, the scoreboard malfunctioned and the gymnasts scores could no longer be seen by the crowd. With the meet neck and neck, the scores remained unknown. At the end of the rotation, the sound of more than 1,000 cheering fans boomed throughout Huff Hall when the meet’s results were announced. The Illini had topped the Buckeyes 195.700-195.575, posting their highest score of the season.

After struggling on vault in the beginning of the season, they turned in season-high scores on the vault (48.925) and uneven bars (49.025). Junior Elise Gill beat her career high of 9.700 — which she set last season during the Ohio State meet — on the vault, scoring a 9.850. Senior Hannah Welker also beat her career high on the uneven bars, posting a 9.850.

“I kind of said at the beginning of the year that our success was going to depend on how people could come out of their comfort zones and rise to the occasions,” Illinois head coach Kim Landrus said. “I definitely see that we have competitors that are rising to the occasion and really embracing the challenge of filling the voids left by our senior class last year.”

Sophomore Amber See won her first all-around title of her career, tying with teammate senior Kelsey Joannides and Ohio State’s Colleen Dean. After being put in a crucial situation, having to earn a 9.8 or better to seal the victory for Illinois, See earned a 9.9 on the floor exercise and was awarded her fourth floor event title in a row this season.

“I just try to have fun on floor,” See said. “I am the type of gymnast that if I have fun, I do well. I look at it as a performance, and try to involve the crowd.

“If I do my job and the score comes and I earn the win, then that happens. It’s not going to happen until I do my job.”

See also took first on the balance beam with a 9.85, tying her career high. Joannides took first on the uneven bars with a 9.9, breaking her career high of a 9.875. With the Orange and Blue in many pressured situations during the meet, they turned to one of their team leaders, Joannides, for advice.

“The thing that we tell each other over and over again is be loud and be excited,” Joannides said. “It is the excitement and the adrenaline that really gets us pumped during meets. It isn’t about, ‘Oh you better make this routine.’ No, we all know that we can make routines, it is really about attitude and energy.”

In the final rotation, the Illini found themselves in a similar position as the previous weekend against Michigan, with a slight lead. Unlike against Michigan, the Illini came away with a victory.

“We know that Ohio State is a great team, they are ranked 11th in the country,” Landrus said. “But I always tell them we really need to focus on ourselves, and we can’t worry about our opponent. I think we stuck with the process, and we know if we stick with the process, the outcome will happen.”

Illinois looks to continue what it has started with this victory.

“I think from here we just go back in the gym and continue working hard,” Welker said. “We worry about each event as it comes, each skill as it comes, and each competition as it comes. We hope to just go up from here and we are really excited for the season to continue.”