Illinois women’s gymnastics returns to Minneapolis for Regionals

Illinois’ Amber See performs her floor routine during the meet against Michigan, at Huff Hall, on Friday, Feb.7, 2014. The Illini lost 195.800-195.575

The No. 11 Illinois women’s gymnastics team last competed at Minneapolis on Jan. 25, where it suffered its first loss of the season against a lower-ranked Minnesota team.

The Illini will be back in Minneapolis this Saturday for NCAA Regionals, and they will be a No. 2 seed for the first time in school history. As such, the gymnasts have placed themselves in a good position to finish in the top two out of six teams at the Regional, a necessity in order to reach Nationals.

“It’s exciting to know that we’re a 2-seed, and that was definitely a goal that we had this year,” senior Amber See said. “But at the same time, we still have to do well on the day to prove ourselves.”

Joining Illinois at the Minneapolis Regional is No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 14 Minnesota, No. 19 California, Southern Utah and San Jose State. With the exception of Minnesota, the only other team the Illini have faced so far this season is Oklahoma, where they suffered a loss. They have, however, competed against Minnesota twice.

Aside from the regular season meet in Minneapolis, Illinois was also in the evening session with Minnesota at Big Ten championships. While the Illini placed third in the session and fourth overall, the Golden Gophers scored half a tenth more than them, which allowed them to take second place in the evening session and third in the Big Ten.

The small margin that separated the Illini from placing at Big Tens has given them motivation and further emphasized the importance of details, whether it is sticking landings or hitting handstands.

“We’ve told them all year about the little things. It was by a very small margin that Minnesota had stretched for third place, so we came back in the gym,” head coach Kim Landrus. “We’ve worked really hard since Big Tens, and we’re ready to go out there and make sure we correct those little things.”

Illinois has also had nearly two weeks of practice time to prepare for Regionals. See mentioned the extra practice time has been good, but what’s more important is the simulation the team did.

“Last weekend, we actually kind of did a mock meet where we did practice day and competition day kind of like this weekend is going to be,” junior Kelsi Eberly said. “So it was a little bit lighter on our bodies and prepared us for this weekend.”

If the Illini fail to make it into the top two of the Regional, their season will be done. For See, this meet is taking place right near her hometown of Minnetonka, Minn., but she described it as bittersweet with the chance it may be her final competition.

“Obviously I don’t want it to be my last meet ever, and I’m fully confident that it won’t be,” See said. “But at the same time, it’s fun to have my friends and family there supporting me no matter what happens. Just knowing that’s where I started my gymnastics career, it’s kind of cool to go back one last time before it’s over and compete there.”

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