Illinois women’s gymnastics takes 5th at Big Ten Championships

Posting a second-best season score of 195.850 didn’t put No. 23 Illinois high enough to finish top three at the Big Ten Championships over the weekend. The Illini’s score placed them fifth in the competition, which pleased Illinois head coach Kim Landrus.

“I think the girls did a really good job from start to finish,” Landrus said. “Our last four vault performers really brought some good vaults and we kind of continued the momentum onto bars and that carried to beam as well. I think they just kept the momentum going.”

Illinois started the meet on the floor exercise, which is a third or fourth rotation event in a typical dual meet. This event score of a 48.875 pushed the Illini into an early lead ahead of Michigan, Iowa and Michigan State — the other three first-session teams.

Illinois then moved onto the vault where it picked up momentum towards the end of the lineup with four scores of 9.8 or above. Sophomore Amber See scored a 9.9 on vault.

Moving into the second half of the rotation, Illinois headed to the uneven bars where it tallied a season high score of 49.100. This score allowed the Illini to keep the lead through the first three events. Junior Alina Weinstein posted a season-high score of 9.875, tying her for fourth place overall.

“We had goals this whole entire week in preparation for Big Ten’s, we made them really clear for everyone, and in the gym we tried to create that high-pressure atmosphere,” senior Kelsey Joannides said. “We focused on details and we put a lot of pressure on each other to hit routines in practice. So I think that kind of prepared us for it.”

Illinois ended the competition on the balance beam, its strongest event. Joannides earned her second Big Ten title with a score of 9.9 — her first Big Ten Championship title since freshman year on the vault. She also tied for third place overall with Penn State’s Sharaya Musser in the all-around competition posting a score of 39.400.

“I can’t even put into words how proud I am of Kelsey,” senior Hannah Welker said. “She’s been such a rock for us. Not only just this season but throughout her entire Illini career. … Her beam is beautiful and honestly I knew if she went out there last night and did what she does in practice every day that she would end up on the top of the podium and that’s exactly what happened.”

The results of the meet put newcomer Nebraska in first (197.100), Ohio State in second (196.225), Minnesota in third (195.950), Michigan in fourth (195.875), Illinois fifth (195.850), Penn State sixth (195.700), Iowa seventh (195.425) and Michigan State last (194.675). The fifth-place finish by the Illini does not reflect the outstanding individual performances from several team members.

“The scores aren’t something we can control and the coaches say it and this is something that I have to reiterate,” Joannides said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the gymnastics … I think the feeling that we got from competing how we did is going to last a lot longer than any award or recognition that we would have gotten.”