Illinois women’s gymnastics takes on busy weekend with two meets

For the past five years, the Illinois women’s gymnastics team has had one weekend in which it competes in two meets.

This upcoming weekend, the Illini will participate in the State of Illinois Classic before competing in a home tri-meet.

In Friday’s State of Illinois Classic, No. 14 Illinois will face UIC, Illinois State and Northern Illinois in Bloomington, Ill. Following that, the gymnasts will take on No. 19 Central Michigan and No. 23 Ohio State at home Sunday.

Despite the busy schedule, there’s a lot of excitement heading into the weekend. Head coach Kim Landrus described the gymnasts as being “really amped up” for the extra competition.

“We get an extra chance and another opportunity to do well,” junior Sunny Kato said. “And if we make mistakes, it’s like, ‘Oh, we have another chance to make it up.’ And it’s exciting to get two good scores instead of just one.”

Freshman Emily Lennon, the current Big Ten Freshman of the Week, agrees with Kato. With the amount of fun Lennon finds in competitions, she’s simply feeling excited about it. Along with that, Lennon is used to competing twice in a weekend. Before coming to Illinois, she competed as an elite gymnast where she would go through two competitions within one weekend.

The abundance of opponents hasn’t fazed Illinois either. It may cause more distractions than a dual-meet would provide, but there are also advantages to the situation.

“It’s exciting when you have multiple teams,” Kato said. “The energy is high, and you see the other teams are having a lot of fun. And everyone, I think, is feeding off of the energy, so I think it’s fun when you have more than one team.”

Illinois has a large advantage at the State of Illinois Classic. The Illini have placed first in this competition for the past five years. Aside from that, their current scoring average is a 195.900. None of Illinois’ opponents have scored that high this season. Northern Illinois comes closest with their highest score being 193.825.

As for the tri-meet, Central Michigan and Ohio State aren’t very far behind with averages of 195.441 and 195.254, respectively. With that being said, this doesn’t guarantee anything for the Illini.

Last weekend, Illinois lost to Penn State by 0.175. At that time, the Nittany Lions were ranked six spots below the Illini. Prior to that loss, Illinois nearly defeated the higher-ranked Michigan but fell by 0.225. The losses have given the Illini motivation to win, and they’ve emphasized just how much the details matter, no matter what the rankings say.

“It fuels the fire, and you’ve got to work on every little tenth,” Landrus said.

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