Junior Wes Haagensen finishes first in the all-around to lead Illinois into the NCAA Team Championship finals tomorrow.
April 12, 2007
"All season we have not been able to click, and I just new that it would happen today," head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said. "The guys were just focused today. They trusted themselves and did a great job of executing their routines. I was really proud of our freshman and our juniors who came through today for us."
Junior Wes Haagensen (54.850) led the charge, as he took first in the all-around behind Olympic hopeful and 2007 U.S. Senior National Team Member David Sender (54.250).
"It's a team effort," Haagensen said about his performance in the all-around. "These guys just make it easier and easier as they hit their routines for me to come out with no pressure and hit my routines. Today, however, doesn't mean anything since its not the team finals. I know that I have to come out and do it again tomorrow when it counts."
The Illini made it to the team finals for the fifth straight year, finishing fifth (2003), third (2004) and second in both 2005 and 2006 in their past appearances during that streak. The Fighting Illini accomplished the feat behind a school-record floor exercise score of 37.950, earning them the team event title, season-highs on both pommel horse (34.700) and rings (37.750) and the second-highest season team score of a 35.700 on high bar.
"It is awesome to set the school-record," co-team captain sophomore Michael Boyer said. "It's that much better knowing that the team that previously had the record was led by Justin Spring and Adam Pummer, both of whom were great on floor. To set the record against some of the best floor exercise gymnasts
Individual top-five finishes included freshman Chad Wiest, who took home the event crown on floor (9.700) to increase his number to five titles on the year, while Haagensen followed in second with a 9.650, also a career high. Freshman Luke Stannard, with a career-best 9.100 on pommel horse, finished tied for second to post his third top-three finish of the season on the event. Haagensen continued one of his best outings of the year tying for the rings title, scoring a 9.700, while Yamauchi tied for fifth with a 9.550. Yamauchi also recorded a fourth-place finish on vault with a 9.100.
Freshman Brian Liscovitz almost landed a perfect high bar routine to finish fifth with a 9.000, while Haagensen took third on high bar (9.300) just in front of teammate junior Chris Silcox , who tied for fourth (8.950).
Hayasaki, no stranger to the national stage as he last led Illinois to the national title in 1989, set off in hope of leading the Illini into the championship round by opening Session I of the 2007 NCAA Qualifying on parallel bars.
Heading into high bar with ground to make up, sophomore Chris Lung showed why he performs well under pressure, starting things off with a career-high 8.900 as the first competitor in the lineup, besting his previous high of an 8.800 that he first set at last years NCAA Championships and then tied again this season when Illinois faced then No. 1 Michigan during dual competition.
2007 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year Haagensen wrapped up the second rotation for the Illini with a 9.300, just .100 of his career best to secure a team score of 35.700 on high bar, the second-highest mark for the Illini this season.
Heading into one of the best events for the Illini in 2007, floor exercise, Illinois went to work behind a career-best from Boyer, who notched a 9.300 (tied-ninth) as the second gymnast in the lineup, improving his previous high of a 9.200 that he set against Minnesota earlier this season.
"This is one of the first meets I was just so relaxed and focused," Boyer said about the day. "We told the guys in the huddle we needed to make this meet about us and just focus on us. Instead of at Big Tens, where I think we were so concerned with winning, today we were just concerned about doing our best and hitting our routines. We came out and had fun out there, which I think just made us relaxed."
The high marks continued for
"I knew that we were due," Haagensen said about the Illini's efforts today. "We have not hit and clicked all season long. If we didn't make it happen here, it wasn't going to happen."
Behind chants of I-L-L, I-N-I and their performance on floor, the
Competing next on pommel, the Illini were going to need a top effort from their lineup to stay in the hunt. Using the momentum from their floor outing, the Illini did just that as freshman Andres Saavedra put them off to a solid start carding a career-high 8.300, obliterating his previous high of a 7.600. With the bottom of the lineup making it happen, junior Tyler Yamauchi continued by carding an 8.300 before the 2007 Big Ten's all-around champion, Haagensen, scored an 8.600 to keep the Illini on track.
Stannard did not disappoint, as he registered a team season-high and career-high 9.100 (tied-second), followed by Lung's season-high 8.700 (10th). The championship performance gave
"It was so great," Stannard said about
Leaving nothing in the tank, the Illini continued to stick their routines as they competed on still rings next. Sophomore Nick Stango and freshman Tyler Williamson set the bar high to kick off the apparatus, as both tallied 9.100s, with Stango setting a new career high, while Williamson tied his career high with the effort. All-Big Ten selection Haagensen one-upped the efforts as he recorded a season-high 9.700 (tied-first) to keep the Illini cheering section on their feet. 2007 All-Big Ten selection Yamauchi kept the fans pleased, as he wrapped up the event with a 9.550 (tied-fifth) to give the Illini another team season high of a 37.750.
"Coming into today, we just told the guys we can do this," Yamauchi said. "We knew that we had it in us to beat the
Finishing the session on their best event of the year, vault, the Illini could not have liked their chances any better. Williamson got the Illini off right with a career-high 8.500, while Wiest and Haagensen followed with 8.800 and 8.950 (tied-sixth), respectively. To wrap up the Illini's performance for the day in style, Big Ten vault champion Yamauchi stepped up. With one of the toughest starting values on vault at NCAAs this season, Yamauchi registered a 9.100 (fourth) to give the Illini a 35.350 for the apparatus, sealing a season-high 216.300 for the day and a ticket to the team finals on Friday.
"I said coming into today's competition, if we did everything we needed to do and had the best meet our season, we could surprise some people," Hayasaki said about the team qualifying for team finals. "Now that we are in the super six, it is anyone's ball game. The guys just have to trust themselves and have confidence that they can do it. Tomorrow is a whole new ball game, and we know we are going to have to come out and do this all over again tomorrow to compete for the national title."
SESSION I FINAL TEAM STANDINGS
* Advanced to team finals on Friday
ILLINI TEAM RESULTS BY EVENT
SESSION I - Finished 2nd
Thursday, April 12, 1 p.m.
Parallel Bars (34.850)
High Bar (35.700)
*!$ Floor Exercise (37.950)
! Pommel Horse (34.700)
! Still Rings (37.750)
! Team Total (216.300)
* Session I Team High
! Season High
$ School Record (Under Current Federation de Internationale Gymnastics Code Scoring System, 2001)
ILLINI INDIVIDUAL RESULTS BY EVENT
*(5) Brian Liscovitz (9.000)
* Wes Haagensen (8.650)
* Tyler Yamauchi (8.550)
Andres Saavedra (8.150)
Chris Lung (7.900)
*(3) Wes Haagensen (9.300)
*(T4) Chris Silcox (8.950)
*!$ Chris Lung (8.900)
* Michael Boyer (8.550)
Luke Stannard (7.950)
*(2) Wes Haagensen (9.650)
*!$ Michael Boyer (9.300)
* Chris Silcox (9.300)
Tyler Yamauchi (9.150)
Tyler Williamson (8.450)
*!&$(T2) Luke Stannard (9.100)
*! Chris Lung (8.700)
* Wes Haagensen (8.600)
* Andres Saavedra (8.300)
Tyler Yamauchi (8.300)
Brian Liscovitz (7.550)
*(1) Wesley Haagensen (9.700)
*(T5) Tyler Yamauchi (9.550)
* Jon Drollinger (9.400)
*$ Nick Stango (9.100)
% Tyler Williamson (9.100)
Chris Lung (DNC)
*(4) Tyler Yamauchi (9.100)
* Wesley Haagensen (8.950)
*!$ Tyler Williamson (8.500)
Andres Saavedra (7.700)
Chris Silcox (7.600)
(1) Wes Haagensen (54.850)
* Counted Toward Team Score
! Individual Season-High Score
& Team Season-High Score
$ New Career High
% Tied Career High
(-) Indicates Top-Five Finish on Event