Women’s gymnastics looks to end Michigan’s 23-year streak

The Michigan women’s gymnastics team began a 38-straight dual meet winning streak over the Illini in January of 1991. None of the gymnasts on the current Illinois women’s gymnastics team were born. Partially for this reason, Michigan is junior Sunny Kato’s favorite team to compete against.

“Michigan’s one of our biggest rivals, so I think it’s real exciting to have an opportunity to maybe beat them or have this competition,” Kato said. “And it’s just real exciting to go up against such a great team. … It’s always fun to see how we compare with them.”

Kato is one of six gymnasts (which excludes the freshman) that list Michigan as their favorite opponent on the team’s website. Head coach Kim Landrus also feels the rivalry plays a large role in the overwhelming favor of Michigan meets. Senior Sarah Fiedler is particularly excited for Friday evening’s meet because of a change in setting.

“This is the first time in a while, I’m pretty sure, that they’re coming to Illinois to compete. Usually we go that way to compete, so it will be fun to be able to compete against them at home with all of our fans cheering us on here,” Fiedler said.

It has been nearly four years since Michigan last competed at Huff Hall, as the Wolverines were last in Champaign on Feb. 27, 2010. Michigan averages 1.032 more total points than Illinois does, so having that extra familiarity may be what’s needed to win, especially with the dominance Michigan has shown so far.

In this week’s rankings, Illinois jumped three spots to No. 14, while Michigan sits at No. 6 after being tied for No. 4 last week. It is worth noting, however, that Michigan remains undefeated five meets into the season, despite the drop in ranking.

Last Friday, Illinois earned its third win by defeating Iowa. The victory also marked the beginning of its lone back-to-back home series of the season, something the Illini will be able to use to their advantage. The 23-year losing streak also adds extra fuel to their fire.

“It’s only just motivation for us to do well as a team,” Kato said.

Ashley can be reached at [email protected] and @wijangco12.