March 20, 2001
[Editor's Note: After a week off from competition, the Illini head to State College, Pa., this week to compete at the Big Ten Championships on Friday, March 23 (team and all-around finals) and Saturday, March 24 (individual event finals)].
Practice has been pretty tough over the past week. We have had three double practices consisting of strength and conditioning in the mornings, and team routine practice in the afternoons. I guess it wouldn't sound too bad to those who don't understand the training regimen that we go through every day, but adding on to an already strenuous practice can get to you, physically and mentally. Personally, I thought it wasn't going to be much different than what we have been doing all year, but I was wrong. It took a huge toll on our bodies. We were performing routines fatigued and sore. Somehow we got through it. It wasn't pretty, but as always, we have gained a lot of confidence and positive energy coming off such a draining week of training.
The whole idea behind training like that was to break us down one more time before the end of the season. Its hard to argue with this coaching philosophy. Our coaches have done an excellent job with the team this year. They have come in every morning to work with us on our strength training and they have really turned this team around physically. We are all in good shape and we are constantly improving one way or another. So despite being sore and tired after practice, it really makes everyone feel comfortable knowing that this will benefit us in the long run.
So as you can see, everything is going well for us all. We are plugging along day-by-day working hard and preparing for our own "Big Dance," if you know what I mean. The guys are so anxious and we are all excited. I would tell you to keep your eyes open for certain guys to do well at the Big Ten Championships, but come to think of it, there are just too many possible All-Big Ten Gymnasts on this team. Besides, individual titles are nice, but a team championship would be even better.
We leave on Wednesday morning so that we can get a good day-and-a-half of training in before the meet. I think we have a good chance of running away with it all. As a wise man once told me (I won't say who), "You have to take one thing at a time and we'll be fine."
All I can say is that I am really proud of this team and its accomplishments so far. We have nothing to lose. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how everything turns out. Make sure to follow our success this weekend on fightingillini.com.