Women's Gymnastics
Williams Leads Illini In Rout Over Ball State

Ashley Williams won the vault, beam and all-around as the Illini topped Ball State Saturday night at Huff Hall.
Ashley Williams won the vault, beam and all-around as the Illini topped Ball State Saturday night at Huff Hall.

Feb. 21, 2004

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Champaign, Ill. - Junior co-captain Ashley Williams set a new Illinois all-around record as the Illini rolled past Ball State 195.45-192.25 Saturday night at Huff Hall. The Illini topped the Cardinals on all four events and took at least the top two individual places on each event en route to posting their second highest team score of the season. Fifth-year head coach Bob Starkell was pleased with the performance of his team.

"I'm happy," said Starkell of the meet. "The score really doesn't matter as much as the fact that I'm proud of the team and their performance and how they carried themselves coming off of a pretty good weekend last weekend. Sometimes you get a little bit of a let down, but I think we did a great job of keeping our energy up and that's always going to help us."

The Illini got off to a solid start by posting a 48.550 on vault, their third-best score of the season. They then moved onto the uneven bars, where they have struggled the past few meets, and posted their second-best score of the season (48.900). From there the Illini faltered a bit on beam, counting a fall and posting a 48.725, however they finished strong with a 49.275 on floor, which tied for their top score on the event this season.

Individually, Williams was the star for the Illini. The Northport, Alabama native not only won the all-around with a school record score of 39.475, breaking teammate Kara Kapernekas' record of 39.375 by a full tenth, but she also tied or set three other career-highs and finished first or second on each event. She tied for first on vault with a career-high 9.850 and won the balance beam with a career-high tying score of 9.900. She also took second place on the uneven bars with a 9.825 and on the floor exercise with a career-high 9.900.

"I don't come into meets thinking about records, I just try to make my routines as clean as possible," said Williams of her record-breaking performance. "Tonight things went well - I stuck my vault landing which was a first, and my bars went pretty good, beam was a little shaky, but it was good, and floor was a good note to finish the meet on. I was really excited when I heard it was a school record."

Starkell was very impressed with Williams' performance. "Ashley has been one of our strongest all-arounders the last couple years," Starkell said. "She's just kind of coming into her own, getting a little bit stronger and quicker. I think the major factor for her is confidence. She's really found a large amount of confidence in herself; tonight she did a great job."

Senior co-captain Kara Kapernekas also had a strong meet for the Illini. In her first all-around competition of the season, the former school-record holder put up a solid score of 39.125 to finish second behind Williams. She won the floor exercise by tying her own Illinois record with a dazzling 9.950 - receiving a 10 from one judge. She also posted a score of 9.850 on beam to finish second.

"I think Kara was due, she had been nursing some back issues that she's had probably her whole career," said Starkell of Kapernekas. "We really laid low during the summer and first semester and now we're just slowly trying to get her back in. She's going to be a strong competitor, if we can keep her doing all-around, that's just going to make our team tougher."

Freshman Cara Pomeroy won the uneven bars with a season/career-high score of 9.925 and fellow freshman Danye Botterman tied Williams for first place on vault with a 9.850. Botterman and sophomore Katie Wild tied for third on floor with 9.825s as the Illini swept the top-six places on the event. Lauren Newcomb set a career-high of 9.850 on the balance beam and junior Margaret Dann made it a 1-4 Illini sweep on the event with a 9.750 to take fourth. Other personal bests for the Illini include Kim Kirzow's 9.675 on vault and Botterman's 9.700 on bars. On the night, the Illini set or tied 11 season-highs and eight career-highs

Up Next: Illinois will close out its three-meet home stand by hosting Illinois State in another double-duel meet with the UI men's this Friday, Feb. 27. The top-ranked Illini men will be hosting Temple. Start time will be 7 p.m. at Huff Hall.