Women's Gymnastics
Illini's Energy Drives Them to Victory Over MSU in Pink Meet

Giana O'Connor set new career highs on the vault, floor and all-around
Giana O'Connor set new career highs on the vault, floor and all-around

Jan. 26, 2013

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – On the afternoon where the Illinois women's gymnastics team honored all those who have been affected by breast cancer by sporting special pink leotards, the Illini delivered a driven and focused performance to beat Michigan State, 196.125-193.350, their highest total of the season. As a result of the victory, Illinois once again got to take home the rivalry trophy known as the Victory Plank.

"The victory plank is something special," said Illinois head coach Kim Landrus. "It's a rivalry trophy that we don't have with any other university, so it's definitely something that both myself and the team get really excited about every year. To bring it back to Champaign is great."

The Illini shot right out of the gate as they vaulted their way to a 48.925 to kick off their home opener. The 48.925 was their best score of the season on vault as they improved by .325 from last weekend's meet at Michigan. In addition, all five vaults that counted toward the Illini's score set new season highs. Giana O'Connor and Alina Weinstein anchored the event as they each scored a 9.825. Freshman Heather Foley has continually raised her vault score with every meet, posting a 9.750 this afternoon. Rounding out the scoring for Illinois were Amber See (9.750) and Jaclyn Kantecki (9.775). 

The Orange and Blue carried their momentum to bars where Alina Weinstein and Sunny Kato paced the squad with a 9.825 and 9.800, respectively. Jaclyn Kantecki followed suit with a 9.775. Jordan Naleway was next as she tied her season high of 9.750. Finally, Giana O'Connor's 9.725 brought the team bars total to 48.875.

"I thinks it's always really rewarding when you come in here and do what you know you're capable of doing," said Landrus. "After vault the energy level was high. When we went to bars, our bars coach Jay Santos said 'Do normal gymnastics. We've been doing normal gymnastics all day, just be normal.' After that, it was easy to carry that momentum to beam and then onto floor."

Illinois continued to utilize their high energy, scoring over 49 in the last two events. In the third rotation, the Illini scored a 49.075 on beam. Just like last week in Michigan, the Illini went six up and six down without any falls. Elizabeth McNabb and Sunny Kato set the tone as they both scored a 9.775. Furthermore, both O'Connor and Sarah Fiedler tied their career highs on beam with their score of 9.850. Weinstein once again anchored for the Illini, scoring a 9.825. 

Then, the Illini saved their best event for last, as they impressed the home crowd with their 49.250 on floor. The score ties their beam total from the Michigan meet for the highest event score of the season. Jordan Naleway (9.800), Sarah Fiedler (9.825) and Giana O'Connor (9.850) all set new career highs. In addition Amber See provided a solid 9.875, a new season high for the junior. Finally, Alina Weinstein scored a 9.900, the highest individual mark of the day.

"Alina is a gamer," continued Landrus. "She loves to compete. She does well in practice so when she comes out to compete she knows exactly what she is doing. It is always fun to watch Alina, her gymnastics is eye-catching and wows the crowd."

To conclude the meet, Weinstein took home the all-around title with a season high score of 39.375. O'Connor, who once again improved her all-around score from the week before, finished right behind Weinstein in second with a career high 39.250.

Up next, the Illini travel to Lincoln to take on the defending Big Ten Champions Nebraska on Friday, Feb. 1, at 6 p.m. CT.