No. 19 Illini women’s gymnastics places last in quad meet

The No. 19 Illinois women’s gymnastics team participated in its first quad meet of the season this past weekend, bringing a new atmosphere and event rotation. Though there were some good individual performances, Illinois placed last with a 195.100 behind No. 7 UCLA (196.850), No. 15 Boise State (196.025) and No. 18 Missouri (195.525).

The Illini started the meet on the uneven bars — an event in which Illinois has shown consistent improvement — where senior Kelsey Joannides led the Orange and Blue for the first time. Tallying five scores of 9.725 or above, Illinois posted a 48.850.

“(Associate head coach) Jay (Santos), the number one thing he says when we go to meets is, ‘swing like normal,’” Joannides said.

“Don’t change anything just because you are competing, just because you have to do one routine in front of a judge. … It is a mental thing, it’s not about physically doing your routine, it’s about staying with it, and staying focused and doing the same routines that we do in Kenney (Gymnasium).”

With three other teams competing at the same time, Illinois didn’t have much time between rotations. Having so many teams in the same arena created a different kind of energy that the Illini fed off. This meet also helped prepare Illinois for future large meets.

“It was a quad meet, so all of the events were going on at once,” Illinois head coach Kim Landrus said. “That is what we are going to see at Big Tens, that is what we are going to see at regionals, that is what we are going to see at the State of Illinois Classic. I don’t think it really had much of an effect on our team. When we go into a competition, we really worry about ourselves and try and stay within ourselves.”

The rotation for this meet was unfamiliar for the Illini, who are typically used to starting on the vault or bars and ending on the floor or beam. However, having previous club gymnastics experience made the rotation easier to adapt to.

“It was a little different, but the nice thing about it is that in club, all of us are used to doing what we call the Olympic order, and that is what we did at the meet,” Joannides said. “It is not like we were completely unfamiliar with it. In practice, we always switch up the orders, and we do a different routine schedule every day. It just depends on what events we’re doing, and the coaches will randomly pick. So we should be prepared for any order.”

The Illini finished the meet on vault, an event on which they have lacked consistency all season. The Illini have struggled with injury and finding the right lineup for the event.

“We have been focusing on trying to get mentally tough in the gym and pretending like we are competing,” junior Alina Weinstein said. “Slowly we have got Jack (Jaclyn Kantecki) back into the lineup, and she has been doing great. … The other one we are working on is Kelsi Eberly, and she has a Yurchenko full, and that is a 10.0 start value. It has just been us coming back from injuries, and that is a hard thing to do.”