Illinois women’s gymnastics prepares for in-state rival UIC

The No. 18 Illinois women’s gymnastics team will travel to Chicago for the second time this season to face in-state rival University of Illinois-Chicago.

The Illini are coming off of a two-meet weekend in which they tied Michigan State and defeated No. 25 Arizona State. The tie was Illinois’ second of the season. Illinois had won the Victory Plank rivalry trophy in the two previous seasons, but will share it with Michigan State for the first time. After a slow start to the weekend, the Illini posted their season-high score, a 195.775, against Arizona State.

“I think we are really excited about our season high, and we had a lot of fun in Arizona,” sophomore Amber See said. “We have been working really hard in the gym again this week, so hopefully we will carry our score. We know we can do better than that, it was the season high, but we want to do even better and set our standards higher.”

The Flames are also coming off a season high of 195.250 against Southeast Missouri State. In the 2010-11 season, Illinois defeated the Flames twice: first at Huff Hall, 195.975-195.150, and then again at the State of Illinois Classic with a school-record performance of 196.975. Past success against UIC won’t affect Illinois’ mentality for this season’s competition.

“It is a competition against ourselves,” junior Alina Weinstein said. “It’s gymnastics, so even if we do win it might not be our best. And sometimes when we lose, it could be a really good feat for us. It’s really just about doing better than we know we can do and not really about any other team.”

Weinstein has been focusing on her personal goals this season including, as a team leader, keeping the energy up during practice.

“This is the time in the season where it is tiring,” Weinstein said. “We are halfway through the season and things have become really repetitive. Sometimes it is hard to find that drive, but I have been focusing on keeping my energy up and keeping positivity and working on a goal every day in practice.”

After a long weekend, the Illini didn’t take any time off of practice. This week it has been spiced up with a small competition.

“We have been trying to work on landings, and this week we are having a competition between each individual to see how many sticks you can have per day,” See said. “At the end, we’re doing a contest thing, so someone has to buy you Cocomero or something like that. Basically we are just challenging ourselves to work on the little things.”

One event that focuses on small details and landings is the uneven bars. Now at the halfway point of the season, the Illini are focused on perfecting their routines.

“As far as bars go, they’re trying to focus on that little thing, that one little thing that we really need to focus on to push that routine to a better routine,” associate head coach Jay Santos said. “Opposed to a mediocre 9.7-ish routine, how do you get over the hump, how do you get that 9.8, that 9.85, that 9.9 routine? It’s that one little thing that needs to be corrected.”

UIC is the only in-state team Illinois competes against in a dual meet this season, with in-state competition also coming during the State of Illinois Classic. Competing against UIC will add a few more incentives to winning the meet, but Illinois will keep its main focus on itself.

“It’s always that we want to compete for bragging rights and we want to compete with our state,” Weinstein said. “For us to win would be nice, but it’s more of a competition with ourselves because we need to beat our highest score.”