Freshman Erin Buchanan shone bright on floor, recording a 9.925
Jan. 18, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini women's gymnastics team opened at home in high fashion, delighting the Orange and Blue fans with a 196.175 tri-meet victory over Wisconsin-Eau Claire (185.975) and Centenary College (186.650). Giana O'Connor earned her first career all-around title Saturday afternoon with a 39.250, just 0.025 points shy of her career high. In all, five different Illini took home individual titles. More impressively, the top-five spots on each event belonged to all Illinois gymnasts as well.
"I got my first all-around title today so I'm very excited," said O'Connor. "The last meet I lacked confidence so this week I worked on building it up and was sure I was going to hit on all four events today."
Illinois started the meet on vault where they tallied a 48.700. Amber See took home her second consecutive vault title with a 9.800. It marked the senior's seventh career title on the event and 20th career title overall. O'Connor and Erin Buchanan finished in a tie for second place with a 9.775, which were identical to their week one vault scores at Michigan State.
Next, Illinois moved to bars where they improved 0.8 points from week one to score a 49.150. Junior Sunny Kato earned her first title in 2014 after tying her career high of 9.900. Jordan Naleway, Sarah Fiedler and See also produced strong scores on bars for Illinois, all of whom scored a 9.825 each and tied for second place.
Then, the Illini continued to excel on the balance beam by scoring yet another score over 49, this week with a 49.075. Kato and Elizabeth McNabb led the Illini here with a 9.850 tie for first place. Thus, Kato achieved her third career titles on both bars and beam while McNabb accomplished her second straight beam title and fourth overall in her career. Next, O'Connor and Emily Lennon followed suit in a tie for third with a 9.800.
The Orange and Blue then saved its best event for last, tallying a 49.250 on floor. Buchanan shone bright with a first place 9.925. To put into perspective, only Illini great Alina Weinstein and current senior Amber See recorded a higher floor score in all of last season.
"It was one of the best feelings," described Buchanan. "I don't think I could have done it without my teammates. They have really helped me become the gymnast I am in these past few months."
O'Connor then finished her stellar day by tying her career high of 9.900, good for second place on floor. Finally, Sarah Fiedler broke her career best with a 9.850 while Kelsi Eberly delivered a strong performance by tying her career high of 9.800.
Fielder and See joined O'Connor in the all-around for the second straight week. Fiedler continued her career streak of never scoring below a 39 with a 39.100 Saturday. Meanwhile, See recorded a 38.750 and came in third.
Thus, Illinois continued its historic start to 2014. After scoring higher than a 195 for the first time ever to open a season, the Illini's 196.175 was the first time the Orange and Blue hit the 196 mark in week two action.
"Our goal today was to compete against the country so we were trying to get above a 196," O'Connor said. "This past week we really worked on details and confidence."
"We just have one goal and that's to succeed. We are going to keep making progress," Buchanan added. "I think we have a lot to offer this year."
Up next, the Fighting Illini look to ride its momentum into Minneapolis when they compete against No. 24 Minnesota in a dual meet on Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m. CT.