Women’s gymnastics set to compete against array of ranked opponents

The No. 19 Illinois women’s gymnastics team will travel to Navy Pier this weekend to compete against three unfamiliar competitors.

The Illini face No. 7 UCLA (4-1), No. 15 Boise State (3-2) and No. 18 Missouri (5-0). The Illini have competed in this meet in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons and came away with a victory in 2009. With four teams participating in the meet, Illinois will need to keep focus on themselves, though they look forward to being in the energetic atmosphere.

“I think (bigger meets) are more fun,” junior Jaclyn Kantecki said. “It’s louder and there is more of an audience. It is more of a club meet in a way because there is someone on each event.”

Although the gym will be busier than usual, the higher-ranked competition is something that sophomore Amber See said the Illini

have earned.

“It is fun to switch up the competition,” See said. “I don’t think we have ever competed against UCLA since I have been here anyway, but it will be fun to see the good competition. We ultimately think that we deserve to be up there with the best of the best, so we want to compete with the best of the best.”

Last weekend, the Illini came away with a victory at Huff Hall over the Buckeyes, posting their highest score this season of a 195.700. See, along with senior Kelsey Joannides, shared the first place all-around title with Ohio State’s Colleen Dean. After defeating No. 11-ranked Ohio State, the Illini’s confidence has grown.

“We are just going to use the win that we got and move forward,” See said. “Keep working on the same little things in the gym with the mental mindset and just take the win and carry the momentum with us.”

Struggling with the vault in the early going this year, the Orange and Blue posted their highest season scores last weekend for both the uneven bars (49.025) and the vault (48.925). The success on vault is expected to continue and this week there will be competition in practice for spots in the lineup.

“I think vault is a key event that we should look at and think that we did well,” Illinois head coach Kim Landrus said. “We had two more 10.0 start value vaults than we did the week before, but I think our girls also have to know that they can’t let down. They need to show us in practice that they can consistently compete these vaults and practice these vaults well in order to be able to compete them on Friday night.”

With the meet taking place Chicago, and having many gymnasts from the surrounding suburbs, Illinois is expecting a good fan turnout.

“I think there will be a lot of Illinois alumni there,” Landrus said. “I know that I have heard from several people saying that they can’t wait. There is also a big club competition going on that weekend, so I think a lot of little kids will come and cheer on all the girls because they are excited about college competition.”