Melissa Fernandez equaled the second-best beam score in Illinois history to earn a share of the title.
Feb. 13, 2009
Columbia, Mo. - The 17th-ranked Illinois women's gymnastics team set the school vault record with a score of 49.175, but still fell to No. 13 Missouri by a score of 196.625-195.000 Friday night at the Hearnes Center in Columbia, Mo. Senior Marijka Botterman and freshman Allison Buckley led the way for the Illini on vault to tie for the event crown, while sophomore Melissa Fernandez won the beam title by equaling the second-best score in program history on the event (9.925).
"Our routines didn't seem to be refined on bars so we had a little bit of a slow start, but we responded with an excellent vault rotation," head coach Bob Starkell said. "No one had their best vault routine, but each performance had great amplitude and distance.
After a shaky start on bars (48.500) in the first rotation, the Illini responded with the record-breaking performance on vault. The Orange and Blue displayed five impressive routines to move past the 49.150 mark in the record books set last year against Illinois-Chicago. Vault had been the weakest event this season for the Orange and Blue, but the Illini proved their potential tonight with the return of a healthy lineup. Botterman and Buckley were the top-two scorers for Illinois (9.875) to share the title, while junior Nicole Cowart (9.850) and freshman Kelsey Joannides (9.825) each tied their season-highs to finish just behind. Fernandez rounded out the scoring for the Illini with a 9.750.
"Melissa looked great on her beam routine," Starkell said. "She had a lot of pressure on her because of the two falls, but she handled it wonderfully and really helped our score."
Illinois scored a 48.850 on floor in rotation three and counted a fall on beam to garner a season-low 48.475 in the final rotation, despite Fernandez's career-best mark to earn a share of the title. Fernandez joins Buckley and host of others in a tie for second place on beam in the Illinois record books, behind only Stacy Redmond's school record of 9.950 set in 1995. Sophomore Lashlee Morris was the next top Illini beam performer, tallying a career-high tying 9.800.
Schmidt tied for second on bars and floor, with a 9.875 on each event, while Buckley (38.925) and Cowart (38.825) were the top all-around finishers for the Illini, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.
"Sarah looked great on floor and had another solid routine on bars after an uncharacteristic mistake last weekend," Starkell said. "Allison looked good tonight and is getting closer to where she was last year."
Illinois returns home this Sunday, Feb. 15 to square off against the 18th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in the "Pink Meet" at 2 p.m. at Huff Hall. The Illini, joined by the American Cancer Society and Colleges Against Cancer, will be sponsoring several fun activities throughout the meet against Ohio State to help raise awareness about cancer. Illinois will be wearing pink leotards, while fans that are wearing a pink shirt will receive free admission. In addition, pink pom-poms will be given out at the door, the Illini drumline will perform and a guest speaker will talk about the importance of raising awareness.