Blue took down Orange in a back tuck stick-off tiebreaker to take the Orange & Blue title.
Dec. 9, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini men's and women's gymnastics teams paired up to host the Orange & Blue Exhibition Sunday afternoon at Huff Hall. Team Blue narrowly edged Team Orange in a tie-breaking back tuck stick-off after ending the match-play event with the score even at 10 points apiece. Four gymnasts from Team Blue stuck their back tucks, while only three Team Orange members stuck their landings.
"I think it was a great kickoff to the start of the season that's coming in January," head women's coach Kim Landrus said. "It exposed some areas in which we need to work, but we had a lot of hit performances. It makes me really excited for the season."
Junior Amber See led the way for Team Blue, winning her head-to-head contests on vault and floor. Senior Malcolm Brown (floor), juniors Chad Mason (pommel horse) and Elizabeth McNabb (beam), sophomore Gabriella Nguyen (uneven bars), redshirt freshman Jacob Tilsley (pommel horse) and newcomers Joey Peters (parallel bars), Max Mayr (high bar) and Heather Foley (floor) secured victories for Team Blue on their events as well.
Meanwhile, senior Alina Weinstein won on beam and uneven bars for Team Orange, while junior Jordan Valdez secured points on parallel bars and high bar, and freshman Giana O'Connor won on floor and uneven bars. Juniors Sarah Fiedler (beam) and Alex Varga (floor) and sophomores Mike Wilner (rings) and Nick Sacramento (rings) rounded out the scoring for Team Orange.
Blue boasted a 3-2 lead after the first rotation with wins from See, Brown and Nguyen, but Orange came storming back in the second rotation to tie Blue, 5-5, with victories from O'Connor, Weinstein and Varga. In the third rotation, Blue recorded wins from McNabb, Mayr and Foley and continued to dominate early in the fourth with points from Mason and See. Orange came back once again, however, winning the final three events with routines from Wilner, Weinstein and Valdez to force the tiebreaker.
See, McNabb, Brown and freshman Fred Hartville stuck their back tucks for Team Blue, while Fiedler, Varga and Valdez did so for Team Orange. After two solid performances on beam and bars, Weinstein took a tiny step on her tuck to give Blue the victory.
"Today was a big success," head men's coach Justin Spring said. "It's all about getting the athletes ready for another big season. Our guys like to have fun with it, and it kind of helps defuse the nerves in a competitive environment. It's going to be another hard-fought season, but we should be competitive for another Big Ten and possibly NCAA title once again."
Illini athletes from various other events served as judges for the contest.
The Illinois women's team will begin its regular season with a quad-meet against No. 19 Arizona, No. 6 Stanford and San Jose State on Jan. 12 in Tucson, Ariz., and will host its home opener against Michigan State on Jan. 26 at Huff Hall in its annual pink meet.
The Illini men will kick off their regular season on Jan. 12 at No. 15 UIC and will open their home slate against No. 10 Iowa on Feb. 16 at Huff Hall with their annual Gym Jam meet alongside the Orange and Blue women.