Junior Melissa Fernandez won the bars title with a career-high 9.925.
March 6, 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - No. 13 Illinois dominated Ohio State, 196.300-194.700, on Saturday afternoon at Huff Hall, topping the Buckeyes on every event and sweeping the individual event titles. Senior Sarah Schmidt won the all-around for the second time in her career, tallied her sixth floor crown this season and tied for first with junior Melissa Fernandez and sophomore Kelsey Joannides on beam. Fernandez took the top spot on bars with a career-high 9.925, while junior Allison Buckley picked up her fifth vault title of the year.
"We had really good performances on all four events," head coach Bob Starkell said. "One of our goals is to not count a major break, and we didn't have any today, so we accomplished that goal. I feel pretty good about the stretch we have had as we continue to get ready for Big Tens."
The Illini notched season highs on bars (49.225) and beam (49.175), helping the squad eclipse the 196 mark for the fourth time this season. The beam score tied the second-best mark in school history while the bars score matched the fifth-best score on the UI all-time list thanks to Fernandez, who tied the fifth-best individual score (9.925) on the event.
"We kept the energy level high on bars by remaining focused, staying composed and sticking the dismounts," Starkell said. "Beam is just a mentally tough event, but our group is looking pretty confident and strong. Even though they did really well today, I still believe they can do even better."
Illinois grabbed an early lead with a 48.825 on vault, paced by Buckley's winning score of 9.850. Freshman Jaclyn Kantecki took third with a 9.775 while senior Nicole Cowart tied for fifth with a 9.750. Schmidt and Joannides rounded out the scoring with a pair of 9.725s.
The Orange and Blue extended their lead with an impressive showing on bars, where they boasted the top three individuals. Schmidt came in second behind Fernandez with a 9.900 followed by freshman Alina Weinstein in third with a career-high 9.850. Kantecki tied her career high with a 9.775 to tie for sixth with Buckley. After two rotations, the Illini led by over half a point.
On balance beam, Schmidt posted a career high for the second straight week to tie Fernandez and Joannides for the event crown with a 9.850. Buckley tied for fourth with a 9.825 followed by Cowart with a 9.800 to give the its season best score. Junior Samantha Perino scored a 9.725 which did not count toward the team score.
Illinois filled the top-five spots on floor exercise and recorded a 49.075 to close the night. Schmidt, who has won the floor crown at every Big Ten dual meet this season, notched a 9.900 to capture the victory. Perino matched her career high for the third straight week with a 9.800 and tied with Fernandez and Buckley for the runner-up slot. Cowart tied for fifth with a 9.775 to wrap up the Illini scoring.
In the all-around competition, Schmidt led the way, tying the sixth-best mark in school history with a 39.375. Fernandez came in second with a 39.275 followed closely behind by Buckley at 39.250. Cowart posted a 39.050 to tie for fourth. All four Illini all-arounders now have won the title at least once this season.
With the victory, Illinois improved to 8-7 overall and 4-2 in Big Ten duals while knocking off the Buckeyes for the fifth time in a row. The meet will air on the Big Ten Network next Saturday, March 13 at 11 a.m.
Up Next: Illinois closes out its home season on Saturday, March 13 at 2 p.m. with Gym Jam, a double dual featuring the women against No. 18 Missouri and the men's gymnastics team versus Michigan. Free food will be provided to the first 1,000 fans beginning at 1 p.m. as part of the premiere promotion sponsored by the News-Gazette, WDWS and WHMS. A trio of Illini, Nicole Cowart, Sarah Schmidt and Laura Woolf, also will be honored as part of Senior Day festivities.