Illini Fifth At NCAA Regional
The University of Illinois women's gymnastics team completed the 1998-99 season April 10 with a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Region 3 meet in Lincoln, Neb. The Fighting Illini scored a 193.100 to finish fifth of six schools before a crowd of 2,317 fans at UN's Bob Devaney Center.
The University of Michigan captured the Region 3 title with a score of 196.750 followed by host Nebraska with a score of 196.325. Those two schools advance to the NCAA Championships held April 22-24 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Arizona finished third with a score of 193.625, followed by Oklahoma with a 193.225, Illinois, then Illinois-Chicago with a 192.400.
Illini senior Kim Berres (Plymouth, Mich.) scored a 9.850 on the balance and finished in a tie with Maureen Kealey of Arizona for fifth place. Berres' fifth-place finish was the highest individual placing by an Illini. Sophomore Gina Wiechmann (Clearwater, Fla.) earned the Illini's highest all-around score with a 38.750. She finished eighth overall and second among non-NCAA qualifying teams at the Region 3 meet, but will not advance to Salt Lake City based on the all-around scores posted in the other five regions. The top two teams from each of the six regions advance, as well as the top 12 all-arounders not on qualifying teams.
This season marked the second-consecutive postseason trip for the Illini. Illinois finished fifth at the Big Ten championships held March 27 in East Lansing, Mich. with Gina Wiechmann becoming head coach Lynn Brueckman's first individual Big Ten champion in her six seasons at Illinois. Wiechmann scored a 9.875 to win the balance beam competition becoming the seventh Illinois individual to earn all-Big Ten honors.
Illinois was led this season by Berres, Wiechmann and sophomore Phaedra Dixon (Chicago, Ill.). Dixon led the team with 29 top finishes for the Illini this season, including 10 first-place finishes. Berres, the Illini's only returning all-Big Ten performer, had 17 top finishes and eight first-place honors and Wiechmann had 17 top finishes and eight first-place awards including her title on the beam at the Big Ten championships. Dixon set team season-best scores on vault (9.825), bars (9.900) and the all-around (39.350). Her 39.350 in the all-around on March 6 eclipsed Berres' 1996 school record of 39.325. Berres and Wiechmann had the team-high beam score with a 9.900 and Wiechmann tied Dixon's mark of 9.900 on bars. Sophomore Carissa Ericson (Rolling Meadows, Ill.) contributed two top marks and one first-place finish. She set a new school record on floor on February 13, scoring a 9.925 to win the event. Senior Becky Ashton (Chester Spring, Pa.) was a solid performer for the Illini this season as well. She was one of only two Illinois gymnasts, Dixon being the other, to compete in the all-around at every meet this season. All told this season, of the top 45 all-time scores in the Illinois recordsbook on vault, bars, beam, floor and the all-around, 32 of those scores came from current Fighting Illini gymnasts. Berres led the assault on rewriting the recordsbook with 14 all-time top scores, she is followed by Dixon with eight, Wiechmann with seven, Ashton with two and Ericson with one.
1999 NCAA Region 3 Women's Gymnastics Results
1. Michigan 196.750