Illinois women’s gymnastics wins eighth straight State of Illinois Classic


Illinois’ Mary Jane Horth performs a routine on the balance beam during the meet against Minnesota at Huff Hall on Saturday. The Illini won 195.775-195.375.

Keeping up a positive attitude can be difficult through a long, grueling gymnastics season, but exciting meets can break that monotony for the Illinois women’s gymnastics team.

One such meet is this weekend’s State of Illinois Classic at the NIU Convocation Center in DeKalb, Ill., which sophomore Erin Buchanan and junior Heather Foley describe as “fun.”

“I know that some people here are from Illinois, and then I have a lot of fans that are coming (to DeKalb),” Foley said. “It’s just a lot of support, so even though it’s not here (at Huff Hull), it still kind of feels like home.”

The No. 12 Illinois women’s gymnastics team will face Illinois State, Northern Illinois and UIC on Saturday night for the annual State of Illinois Classic.

The Illini have the advantage coming into the competition — they are the only team of the four that is ranked. None of the teams besides Illinois is ranked in any events. Illinois also has two top-20 all-arounders in No. 8 junior Giana O’Connor and No. 19 sophomore Mary Jane Horth.

Illinois began last weekend with a loss to Oklahoma at home Friday night and followed up by losing to Nebraska but defeating San Jose State in Sunday’s Masters Classic.

Despite that, Foley still feels her team performed well and progressed as the weekend went on, but added that the Illini need to improve their landings.

After an unsatisfactory number of stuck dismounts against Oklahoma, Illinois went 6-for-6 on stuck landings on the balance beam at the Masters Classic. But the Illini were unable to achieve the numbers they wanted on other events. On vault, Foley said the team needed to stick at least two landings but only got one.

Buchanan agreed with Foley, and said “stuck landings are definitely up on the top of our list.” She added that there are other areas that need improving, though.

“The second thing would be mental toughness and having a tight mind when going out and competing those routines,” Buchanan said. “We’ve done it so many times in the gym, and it’s getting frustrating. We would love to go out there and show the judges what we can do and not just our coaches and our teammates.”

At last year’s State of Illinois Classic, the Illini posted a program-best vault score of 49.425 — another reason Buchanan is excited for the meet. Buchanan expressed hope that the Illini can match that performance — or top it — on Saturday, but to do so would take more than a strong individual performance.

“We had really good performances individually from certain people, and then other ones weren’t as good,” Foley said of last weekend. “We didn’t do the best that we could do, so just once we all put it all together, it’s going to be excellent.”

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