Junior Allison Buckley and the No. 13 Illinois women's gymnastics team kicks off the season at the Salbasgeon Suites Invitational on Friday.
Jan. 6, 2010
#13 Illinois at Salbasgeon Suites Invitational (#10 Oregon State, Air Force and Alaska)
Friday, Jan. 8, 2010 // 7 p.m. PT (9 p.m. CT) // Gill Coliseum // Corvallis, Ore.
No. 13 Illinois opens the 2010 season this Friday when it travels to Corvallis, Ore., for the Salbasgeon Suites Invitational, hosted by No. 10 Oregon State. Air Force and Alaska are the other two teams participating in the quad meet. All three visiting schools will compete at the Gill Coliseum for the first time their program's history.
The Fighting Illini enter the season ranked 13th in the GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll, marking the third consecutive year the program has earned its highest preseason ranking in school history. It is also the fourth time overall that the Illini have been in the nation's top 25 heading into a season, ranking 16th last year, 23rd in 2008 and 25th back in 1999 to begin the season. Five other Big Ten schools appeared in the top 25, led by Penn State at No. 11 and followed by Michigan (No. 12), Ohio State (No. 18), Minnesota (No. 22) and Michigan State (No. 24). A total of 10 opponents on Illinois' schedule are ranked in the top 25.
2009 in Review
Illinois made its first-ever team appearance at the NCAA Championships, finishing in sixth place in the evening preliminary session. With the national appearance, the Illini finished at No. 12 in the final national rankings, the highest final national ranking in school history.
Sophomore Melissa Fernandez became Illinois' first NCAA first team All-American by tying for first place on balance beam in the evening session of the team prelims of the NCAA championships with a score of 9.900. Fernandez went on to compete in the individual event finals, where she took seventh (9.8375) among the eleven beam competitors. Junior Sarah Schmidt also earned All-American honors, tying for sixth place on floor in the evening session to earn second team honors. It marks the first time that Illinois has had more than one All-American in a season.
Illinois head coach Bob Starkell was named National Coach of the Year and assistants Kim Landrus and Amy Kruse were named co-Assistant Coaches of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches for Women (NACGC/W) at the NCAA Championships.
Sophomore Allison Buckley shared the West Regional Beam Title with an individual school record score of 9.95. Her score tied Stacy Redmond (1995) at the top of the individual record books. Buckley is just the third Illini in school history to earn an individual regional title, joining Nancy Thies (1976 and `77) and Cara Pomeroy (2004).
Freshman Kelsey Joannides won the 2009 Big Ten Vault title with a career-high 9.925 and junior Sarah Schmidt shared the Big Ten Floor crown with a school-record tying 9.950 to give Illinois multiple event champions at the conference meet for the first time since 1990.
During the last four years, Illinois has improved its Big Ten and regional finishes each year and has continued to climb up the national rankings. Take a look at the program's progress over the last four years:
Year Big Ten Regional Final Nat. Rank 2006 7th 4th 25 2007 3rd 4th 20 2008 2nd 3rd 15 2009 2nd 2nd 12
Illinois heads to Lincoln, Neb., to square off against No. 15 Nebraska and No. 22 Minnesota on Friday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. CT.