No. 13 Illinois women’s gymnastics ready for Big Ten championships

Making history has been a theme for the No. 13 Illinois women’s gymnastics team this season. 

Whether it was setting the all-time high team score, breaking the all-time high score for vault or senior Amber See becoming the third gymnast in program history to earn a perfect 10, the Illini have done their fair share of rewriting the record books.

Illinois will make history yet again when they compete at the Big Ten championships Saturday. For the first time in program history, the Illini will be in the evening session of the competition.

The Big Ten championships are split up into two sessions: the afternoon and the evening session. This season, the teams participating in each session were determined by the results of the two Big Ten Quad Meets. The top two teams from each meet earned a spot in the evening session of championships while the remaining teams moved on to the afternoon session.

“It’s such a great opportunity for us,” head coach Kim Landrus said of competing in the evening session. “It’s a goal we’ve had all year, to make the evening session. And you know, my expectation is to just keep on doing what we’re doing, building the momentum. We’ve talked about it all season, about momentum and how all the little details really matter and just to go out and do our thing.”

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The Illini are coming into the postseason with their best scores of the season. In the final home meet, Illinois recorded an all-time-high team score of 197.100. A week later, the Illini scored a 196.875 for the third-highest team score in program history.

All season long, the gymnasts have known they’re capable of scoring a 197, but the deductions often added up and prevented them from achieving that score. It has been these close calls that have kept Illinois striving for more success.

“It’s pushed us a lot, especially to work on mental toughness in the gym and out of the gym,” freshman Erin Buchanan said. “That’s been one of our main goals, just to stay mentally tough, because we are capable of doing it, and to show it is another thing. Now that we’re doing that, it’s just really motivating us to do even better.”

Unlike other meets, though, the Illini’s result in the competition will depend on more than just their direct opponents. Joining Illinois in the evening session are Minnesota, Nebraska and Penn State. Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are set to compete in the afternoon session.

Ideally, the better programs are placed in the evening session, but that’s not necessarily the case. The winner can still come from either session. The results from the two sessions will be combined and compared with each other to determine the winner, leaving the Big Ten title up for grab.

The Illini have put themselves in a good position to take the Big Ten title, and the team is looking to use the same mentality that got them there.

“We’re just going into it with the same mindset we’ve had all season,” junior Sunny Kato said.  “We’ve worked really hard to get here, so all that hard work is there. All we need to do is just do what we’ve been doing in practice and perform how we’ve been doing.”

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