Illini men’s gymnastics celebrates senior night

By Kieran Hampl

For the No. 6 Illinois men’s gymnastics team, the week of rest has allowed for a refinement of some skills heading into the final stretch of the season.

Before the final push in the Big Ten and NCAA Championships, the Illini will host their last home meet of the season, which will be the last of their careers for the seniors.

Senior Cameron Rogers described having his last home meet at Huff Hall as bittersweet. 

In total, five Illini will leave their last impression as Illini at Huff Hall this weekend. Despite the prospects of life without gymnastics, the Illini will be fully focused on defeating Illinois-Chicago for the third time this season. The first two times came much earlier in the year in a dual match and then a quad meet.

To celebrate the careers of the seniors, the men’s and women’s teams will host the event together, competing side by side as they regularly do in practice.

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Senior Jordan Valdez said he is in favor of the quad meet.

“It is a lot more fun with girls’ meets; I think it is awesome,” Valdez said.

Rogers and Valdez emphasized how much fun it is to cheer for the women’s team when they compete and have an even louder crowd than usual with the women cheering them on.

In addition to senior day, the Illini will be hosting gymnastics alumni on campus for the event. The men’s team will welcome the 1988 Big Ten Championship team, the 1989 NCAA and Big Ten Championship team and the 2004 Big Ten Championship team back to campus. 

Even though the team holds alumni events throughout the year and has become close with its recently graduated alumni, this is the first time older alumni will come back to campus for a gymnastics event with these current Illini. 

With the extra time off, the Illini have placed emphasis on finalizing their routines. The goal is to have a fully healthy lineup for the first time this season next weekend against Nebraska in order to be comfortable before starting the Big Ten Championships.

Time is one of the biggest challenges for the Illini, who have had athletes fighting injuries for the majority of the season. Sophomore C.J. Maestas, who tore his tricep last season, has been working toward full health all year. Max Mayr is also recovering from an injury.

“We are pretty close to having a full lineup for Nebraska and could be 100 percent, but most likely 90,” head coach Justin Spring said.

The Illini will celebrate the careers of five seniors this weekend, but by no means does that mean their careers are over. 

Kieran can be reached at [email protected].