Women's Gymnastics
No. 17 Illini Demolish School Record in Win over No. 18 Ohio State

Senior Marijka Botterman broke the school vault record with a 9.950 to help lead the Illini to a team record score.
Senior Marijka Botterman broke the school vault record with a 9.950 to help lead the Illini to a team record score.

Feb. 15, 2009

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- In front of a crowd of 1,085 fans, the 17th-ranked Illinois women's gymnastics team celebrated Breast Cancer Awareness and a school-record performance, defeating No. 18 Ohio State, 196.700- 195.675, Sunday afternoon at Huff Hall during its annual "Think Pink" meet. The team score shattered the old Illinois record of 196.300, set in 2004. The Illini also swept the individual event and all-around titles, with Marijka Botterman winning vault and sharing the uneven bars crown with Sarah Schmidt, Melissa Fernandez taking first on balance beam, and Allison Buckley and Schmidt winning floor exercise. Buckley also won the all-around with a score of 39.35.

"We knew we had the potential to have a day like this," said head women's gymnastics coach Bob Starkell. "We have been preparing each week for the fact that when we had everyone back and healthy, these are the type of performances we would have. We are hitting our stride right about now."

The Illini got off to a strong start with yet another school record vault performance. After posting the program's best score in history at Missouri on Friday with a 49.175, the women came back with a 49.225 today to break the school record for the second time in three days. Senior Marijka Botterman led the way breaking the individual vault school record with a 9.950. She shared the old record of 9.925 with Jessica Cole and Nicole Viernes already, but can now claim sole possession of the mark after today. Botterman won the event and Allison Buckley took second with a season-best 9.875, while junior Nicole Cowart, sophomore Melissa Fernandez and freshman Kelsey Joannides each posted 9.800s to contribute to the record performance. The team led by 0.15 after the first rotation when Ohio State put up a 49.075 on bars.

There was no let up as the Illini took to bars, placing in the top-four spots on the event with Botterman winning her second title of the day behind a career-high tying 9.875 performance. Schmidt shared the title with Botterman with an equally impressive 9.875. The team score of 49.25 is the best of the season and is the second-best in school history, behind only the school record of 49.475 in 2004. Buckley (9.850) and Cowart followed just behind Botterman and Schmidt with identical 9.850s. The score was a new career-high for Buckley and tied Cowart's. After two rotations, Illinois had a 0.425 lead over the Buckeyes.

Fernandez once again led the way on beam, scoring a 9.900 to win her second straight beam crown and pacing the Illini to a 48.975 on the event. Cowart tallied a 9.800 to take third, while Schmidt equaled her career-high to tie Joannides for fourth with a 9.775. After the third rotation, Illinois increased their lead to 147.450-146.850 over Ohio State.

Illinois needed a solid showing on floor to take over the school record, and they did just that, equaling the sixth-best floor score in program history with a 49.250. Buckley and Schmidt shared the title honors with 9.900's, while Joannides took third with a personal-best 9.875. Cowart (9.800) and Botterman (9.775) rounded out the team total with solid performances.

Buckley's title winning all-around score (39.350) equaled the school's fifth best all-around performance in history. She edged out Cowart's career-high mark of 39.250, which earned her a tie for second. Schmidt also topped her career-best in her first all-around appearance this season with a 39.175.

Illinois will travel out west next Saturday, Feb. 21, to Seattle, Wash., for a quad meet at 9 p.m. CT. The meet will feature the Illini, along with No. 10 Oregon State, Washington, and Eastern Michigan.