Illini Gymnastics Honor Seasons at Annual Banquet
May 4, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini men's and women's gymnastics teams celebrated the 2014 season Sunday afternoon at their annual Awards Banquet, held at the I-Hotel in Champaign. C.J. Maestas and Alex Varga were named the Most Valuable gymnasts for the men, while senior Sarah Fiedler took home the honors for the women. In addition, junior Sunny Kato received the Most Outstanding Gymnast accolade.
This season was the first back for Maestas after his tricep injury took him out of the 2013 season. After breaking a school and NCAA record on still rings during the regular season (16.450), the Junior earned First-Team All-Big Ten honors, finishing in the Runner-up position on still rings at Big Ten Event Finals. Maestas also earned All-American accolades on still rings, floor exercise, and in the all-around at the 2014 NCAA National Championships.
Varga was a mainstay in the floor lineup all season and competed on vault in nearly every meet. Varga was a key leader throughout the year, both on the floor and in the classroom, earning Academic All-Big Ten honors for the third year in a row.
Fiedler competed in the all-around for the Orange and Blue for the first 11 meets, achieving a new personal best 39.325 at Gym Jam on March 8. In fact, Fiedler only dropped below a 39 in the all-around just twice in her entire career. In addition, Fiedler hit 52-of-53 routines and either tied or set new career highs on every event this year, reaching a 9.8 on vault, 9.875 on bars, 9.9 on beam and a 9.85 on floor.
Kato nearly tripled the amount of individual titles she won a year ago, leading the 2014 squad with 11 (six on bars, five on beam). The bars and beam specialist conquered new career highs on her two events. Her 9.925 on bars earned Kato the Minneapolis Regional title while the junior’s 9.925 on beam tied the second highest score ever recorded at Illinois on the apparatus. In all, Kato only dropped below a 9.8 just three times on beam this season.
Chad Mason garnered Most Improved honors after a strong senior season. Mason excelled on pommel horse throughout the 2014 season, earning his first All-Big Ten selection for the second team, and his second NCAA All-American accolade.
Most improved on the women's side went to Kelsi Eberly. The junior competed in every meet for the first time in her career, hitting all 14 of her routines on floor. Eberly also surpassed her original career best of 9.8 on floor, posting a 9.825 on three separate occasions this year, including the Big Ten Championships. Eberly also recorded one of the 11 Illini scores that were a 9.8 or higher at the NCAA Championships.
Freshmen Matt Foster and Chandler Eggleston earned the Yoshi Hayasaki Consistency Award after. Foster primarily competed on pommel horse for the Illini, earning three titles on the apparatus during the regular season. Eggleston was a powerhouse for the Orange and Blue on floor and vault, earning a combined 11 titles on both. The Jamestown, N.C. native also brought home the Big Ten floor title in addition to First Team All-Big Ten and NCAA All-American (floor, vault) honors.
The Most Consistent Beam award this year went to Fiedler and fellow senior Amber See. Fiedler averaged a 9.779 on the event and hit her career high of 9.9 twice this season. In fact, her 9.9 in Minneapolis resulted in an NCAA regional title. Meanwhile, See averaged a 9.784 on beam, hitting a 9.8 or higher eight out of 14 times. Thus, Fiedler and See played a big part in Illinois being ranked first on beam in the Big Ten.
NCAA Champion Jordan Valdez was named Most Outstanding for the 2014 season. The Louisville, Colorado native earned six high bar titles leading up to his No. 1 finish at the National Championships. Valdez was also a core member of the parallel bars lineup, earning one title this season, and finishing in the Runner-Up position at Big Ten Event Finals. Valdez finished the 2014 season as a Second Team All-Big Ten selection, and an NCAA All-American on high bar and parallel bars.
Despite battling injuries all season, the Illini men advanced to NCAA Team Finals for the 12th straight year, finishing fourth in the nation. The squad produced ten All-Americans, four All-Big Ten honorees, a Big Ten floor champion, and a national high bar champion.
The women earned back-to-back trips to the NCAA Championships for the first time in school history, where they tallied a program high score of 195.8 and finished with a national ranking of 11th in the country. The 2014 squad became the school record holders for team total and vault, including the program’s first score over a 197. In all, the Illini recorded five scores on top-10 team total list, three on vault, six on bars, five on beam and one on floor.
2014 Men's Gymnastics Award Winners
Most Improved: Chad Mason
Most Valuable Player: CJ Maestas & Alex Varga
Most Outstanding: Jordan Valdez
2013 Women's Gymnastics Award Winners
Most Valuable: Sarah Fiedler
Most Outstanding: Sunny Kato
Most Improved: Kelsi Eberly
Co-Most Consistent Beam: Sarah Fiedler & Amber See
Scholar Athlete: Tori Fuijinami