#14 Illini Earns Evening Session Spot at B1G Championships
March 15, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - With the top two teams earning evening session spots at next week's Big Ten Championships, the 14th-ranked Fighting Illini women's gymnastics team made the most of its opportunity Saturday afternoon. Illinois finished in second place with a 196.875 at the Big Ten Quad Meet, following closely behind No. 9 Nebraska's 197.050. Host Michigan State finished third with a 196.200 while No. 23 Ohio State took fourth with a 195.675.
"From the beginning of the year, one of the team's goals was to qualify for the evening session of the Big Ten Championships," stated Illinois head coach Kim Landrus. "It's something we had never done, so to accomplish that feat the way we did means a lot to our program. This year we've emphasized 'building' and today was another step in our process."
The Illini are certainly heating up at the right time of the season. In the past four weeks alone, the Orange and Blue have recorded three of the top-four scores in school history, averaging a 196.650 in that span. In addition, the squad's 196.875 this afternoon ranks as the third highest all-time.
It was a momentous day for Illinois inside the Jension Field House, particularly for four Illini gymnasts. Erin Buchanan and Amber See tied for first on vault with a 9.9 each, with the latter finishing second on floor with a 9.925. Sunny Kato tied her career high of 9.9 on bars for the fifth time this year in a second place showing. Lastly, freshman Mary Jane Horth competed on vault and beam for the first time in her career and recorded scores of 9.85 and 9.875, respectively.
"Today was a total team effort, but Mary Jane is definitely an individual I am so proud of," added Landrus. "Coming back from injury this year, she has been the little engine that could in practice. How rewarding it was to see her compete the way she did today."
The Orange and Blue began the meet on the uneven bars where they produced a 49.225. Jordan Naleway followed right behind Kato in a tie for third place, hitting her career high of 9.875 for the second consecutive week. Horth started her productive day with a 9.85 as Liz McNabb tied her career high of 9.825 for the fourth time this season and second week in a row. Lastly, Giana O'Connor scored a 9.775.
Illinois then moved to beam where it recorded a 49.175. Horth's debut on the event resulted in a fourth place finish. Kato and See tied for seventh with a 9.85 each, as See tied her career high for the third time this year. McNabb then posted her sixth score above a 9.8 this season with a 9.825, while Sarah Fiedler contributed a 9.775.
Illinois went to floor next where it recorded a 49.125. The squad was led by See who scored a 9.925 for the second straight week on the event. O'Connor tied for sixth with a 9.85 as Buchanan (9.825), Fiedler (9.775) and Naleway (9.75) rounded out the team score.
Finally, no matter which event, the Illini continue to close out meets strong. This week, Illinois scored a 49.350 on vault, the third highest in program history. In fact, the Illini now own three of the top-four vault scores all-time. See (9.9), Buchanan (9.9), Horth (9.85), O'Connor (9.85 - tied career high) and Lennon (9.85) all counted scores and executed their vaults for the Orange and Blue.
Up next, the Fighting Illini will compete in the evening session for the first time at the Big Ten Championships, this year hosted by Penn State. The evening session will commence at 4 p.m. CT on Saturday, March 22, at University Park, Pa.