Illini Earn 3rd Ever Trip to NCAA Championships
April 6, 2013
MORGANTOWN, W.V. - Third time's a charm for the Fighting Illini women's gymnastics team as the Illinois squad qualified for the NCAA Championships for the third time in program history. The Orange and Blue recorded a 196.025 in their second place showing, fueled by a season defining beam score of 49.175 on their last rotation. The Illini finished behind fellow nationals qualifier and top scorer #5 Michigan (196.725) and edged out #8 Nebraska (195.875).
"I'm excited for the team and for the program. I am so proud of all the girls. The clutch finish on beam was an indescribable feeling for them. They really did not let anything rattle them today," said Illinois Head Coach Kim Landrus. "It's just a testament to all their hard work and consistency. We needed five strong routines on every event and the girls went out there and did their job."
The Illini were powered by Alina Weinstein who became the first Illini to win three regionals crowns at a single NCAA meet, now boasting five total in her career. The senior finished first in the all-around with a 39.550, beating out Big Ten all-around champion Emily Wong's 39.225. In addition, Weinstein achieved a first place showing on floor with a 9.9 and tied for first on balance beam with Michigan's Katie Zurales with another 9.9. Lastly, Weinstein secured a fourth place finish on bars (9.85) and fifth place on vault (9.9), thus finishing in the top-5 in every event.
"Alina has been so consistent all year," said Landrus. "She strives for perfection and to have that mentality in the anchor spot on every event is key. She believes in herself and really goes out there and performs."
The second qualifying spot was up for grabs throughout the entire night in Morgantown, as it came down to the final routine in the final rotation. Nebraska once again excelled at their best event a.k.a. vault, quickly tallying a 49.650, forcing the Illini to score greater than a 49.025 on balance beam.
Unfazed by the pressure, the trio of Amber See, Elizabeth McNabb and Sarah Fiedler all accomplished 9.8's. Sophomore Sunny Kato then followed with a 9.875. Then the veteran Alina Weinstein booked the trip to Los Angeles with her third 9.9 of the night. Furthermore, the Illini's 49.175 on beam was the highest score on the apparatus all day.
Following a bye during the first rotation, the Illini began the meet on floor where they posted a 48.950. Giana O'Connor tied for seventh place with a 9.825. Also contributing scores were Jordan Naleway (9.75), Heather Foley (9.7) and Amber See (9.775)
After sitting out their second bye, the Illini scored a 48.925 on the uneven bars. O'Connor (9.8), Kantecki (9.75), Kato (9.75) and Fiedler (9.775) all provided crucial scores towards the Illini cause before the squad clinched the trip to California on beam.
Also to note, in her first collegiate regionals competition, freshman Giana O'Connor made the all-around podium tying for sixth place with a 39.175.
In addition, the team's 196.025 is the second highest score recorded by the Illini at an NCAA regional, behind the 2009 squad's 196.7. Furthermore, the Orange and Blue hit the 196 mark for the sixth time this season, thus achieving a feat only accomplished by the 2010 team.
Illinois, Michigan and 10 other squads including fellow Big Ten team Minnesota, will converge upon the Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles from April 19-21 to vie the NCAA women's gymnastics championship. Check back soon with fightingillini.com for more information on nationals.
NCAA Morgantown Regional Team Results
1. Michigan 196.725*
2. ILLINOIS 196.025*
3. Nebraska 195.875
4. Kentucky 195.575
5. West Virginia 194.475
6. North Carolina 194.350