Hey Illini fans!
Guess what??! WE'RE GOING TO NCCA NATIONALS! We couldn't be more thrilled to be representing Illinois in Alabama next weekend. Let me take you through what could have been my last meet ever, being a senior. However, it wasn't because our team fought to finish second at the NCAA Regional in Minneapolis, Minnesota to earn a bid to nationals.
We started on a bye before floor so we were able to go into the locker room and do some last minute cheers to get pumped up before we started competing. We enjoy starting on floor because it is relaxing and the focus is on performing and having fun. Six routines later, we did our job and finished with a low 49, but we knew we had to keep building from there.
Our legs were already warmed up and ready to go as we headed to vault for our second rotation. We did some solid vaults and headed back into the locker room for another bye. We played some games and in no time we were back into the competition arena for bars, where things really heated up.
For those of you who were there or watching the live stream video, you could probably tell we were excited because everyone was screaming and jumping up and down! We stuck four out of our six dismounts and our handstand percentage was great as well! After six incredible routines, we ended with a 49.4 on bars along with an NCAA Regional bar champion, Sunny Kato. We were on fire and had great energy and motivation heading into the last event, beam.
At this point, we were four-tenths ahead of the University of Minnesota. For some, it is hard to end on beam because if you let the nerves control you, it doesn't always turn out well. However, we were determined to do what we do every day in practice. We stayed calm despite the loud cheers from the Gopher fans as they finished on floor. We hit six for six routines and I can't forget to mention Sarah Fiedler's stellar beam routine, which took home the NCAA Regional beam title with a 9.9.
After our final routine, we waited as the last Minnesota gymnast finished her floor routine. After our beam total was calculated, we realized that it was impossible for Minnesota to pull ahead of us. We had done it!!!! The feeling was amazing, I felt joy and relief all at the same time. I was so proud of each one of my teammates who had sacrificed so much to be great. In our post meet huddle, Kim (or Maz as we call her) told us that she knew this particular team was special and we agreed.
These are the moments that every gymnast holds close to their heart. All the sweat, blood and tears are worth it after accomplishing a goal the team has been working towards all year. Only twelve teams in the entire nation are able to experience the opportunity of nationals and we are one of them. I am proud to be a Fighting Illini every day, but this day was extra special! Stay tuned to hear about our trip to nationals and post meet fun!