Illinois women’s gymnastics scores all-time high in win over Lindenwood

Illinois’ Amber See competes her floor exercise routine during the Gym Jam at Huff Hall on Saturday, March 8.

Senior Amber See completed her floor routine, and the meet was over. Excitement came pouring out of the Illini women’s gymnasts, as evidenced by See’s facial expressions. She was jumping up and down as the team all rushed to her. 

The Illini made history Saturday evening in their 197.100-194.450 victory. They were thrilled not just for the win over Lindenwood, but for their record-breaking 197.100, the highest team score in school history.

“We’ve been dreaming of that all season, and just to come out and finally do it at home, our last home meet, our senior meet, was just kind of a dream come true,” freshman Mary Jane Horth said.

While Horth described the record-breaking win as a dream come true, it wasn’t a shock for Illinois. The Illini finally achieved the 197 they always knew they could.

“We just did our job,” senior Sarah Fiedler said. “It wasn’t anything that was out of our reach at all. We just did our job, and the scores came because of that.”

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    The gymnasts’ jobs don’t just include performing the best they can. It also includes staying focused and not letting disturbances get in the way.

    This specifically applied to Illinois’ third event, the balance beam. Sophomore Giana O’Connor started on the apparatus with a 9.750, and the scores went up from there with a 9.800 and a 9.850. Freshman Emily Lennon came fourth in the lineup but suffered two falls during her routine, resulting in an 8.650. This didn’t faze the rest of the lineup, though.

    “We talk all the time about ‘You can’t let distractions bother you,’” Landrus said. “That was definitely a distraction — when somebody falls twice in the lineup. It puts a little bit more pressure on the rest of the lineup, but somebody’s performance should not affect somebody else’s performance.”

    Lennon’s mishaps didn’t affect the rest of the lineup. Rather, it preceded the best beam routines of the meet.

    Fiedler followed Lennon in the lineup and performed her best beam routine of her career with 9.900, which played a factor in her first career all-around title. Junior Sunny Kato outdid Fiedler with a 9.925. These scores would give Kato and Fiedler first and second on beam, respectively. 

    Kato also earned a 9.900 on the uneven bars for first place. See scored a 9.925 on floor and a 9.900 on vault, which gave her the floor title and second on vault. The vault title went to freshman Erin Buchanan with a score of 9.925. O’Connor placed second on floor with a 9.900.

    These individual achievements allowed Illinois to score above a 49 on each event for just the second time this season. This time it led to a new school record, though, and a satisfaction the Illini have been waiting for.

    “I will say it over and over again: Making records for Illinois history feels unbelievable,” senior Elizabeth McNabb said. “Our team is so talented we knew that we could do it, which is why it was so frustrating that we’ve been falling short of it. So it just feels so great to be able to pull it together.”

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