Illinois women’s gymnastics hopes to improve conference record at Penn State

The No. 15 Illinois women’s gymnastics team will face No. 21 Penn State this Saturday for its first away meet in two weeks.

“Traveling away for a Big Ten competition, it’s always a great opportunity,” head coach Kim Landrus said. “And I think that we’re ready to go to State College and just continue our season and continue the momentum that we’ve had.”

Despite Illinois’ loss to Michigan last weekend, it does give the team confidence entering Saturday’s matchup. The Illini put up a good fight but fell to the then-No. 6 Wolverines by a margin of 0.225.

“It’s all about performance, and we don’t look at wins and losses,” Landrus said. “So I told the team afterwards, ‘We had a good competition, and we competed well.’ I think that’s what we take from it.”

There’s always room for improvement, though. Senior Sarah Fiedler said one of the biggest things from the loss to Michigan were little details like hitting handstands and sticking dismounts, so that will be something to work on for Saturday.

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    Halfway through the season, the Illini are averaging a score of 195.780. Penn State isn’t too far behind with a 195.175, despite being six spots behind Illinois in the rankings. While focusing on the details is important, especially in close competition, it’s never the main focus. Landrus said the team works on everything, whether it be consistency, amplitude or execution.

    At Penn State, the Illinois will be finishing on the balance beam while the Nittany Lions will conclude the meet on floor. Both of the events are strong ones for the respective teams. Although Illinois enjoys performing on floor to end a meet, competing in a different order doesn’t bother the team due to its success so far.

    “(Beam’s) honestly one of our strongest events, and I think a lot of teams look to that as a negative thing, ending on beam,” Fiedler said. “Obviously it’s the most nerve-wracking event, but we love ending on beam. We’re always very confident, so it’ll be good for us.”

    Aside from using a beam finish to their advantage, the Illini will also be able to use this weekend’s meet as a preview for the Big Ten championships, which will be hosted by Penn State. The Illini haven’t competed there since 2010, which makes the upcoming meet a good indicator of what to expect.

    “That’s great, actually, to be able to compete in the arena we will be in Big Tens,” Fiedler said. “It will be practice for Big Tens, obviously, and since I’ve been in college, I’ve never … competed at Penn State, so it will be good to feel out the equipment and stuff before Big Tens.”

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