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    Illinois Kicks Off Big Ten Dual Meet Action at #2 Michigan
    Sophomore Sunny Kato made her official Illini debut last Saturday, contributing scores to bars and beam.

    Sophomore Sunny Kato made her official Illini debut last Saturday, contributing scores to bars and beam.

    Jan. 16, 2013

    Complete Notes | Landrus Interview | Weinstein Interview | Kantecki Interview | Live Results Page

    Week 2 Notes: Fighting Illini at No. 2 Michigan 

    Jan. 19, 2013 // 3 p.m. CT // Ann Arbor, Mich. // Live on Big Ten Network

    The Meet

    The Fighting Illini will continue on the road, traveling to the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor for the third consecutive year to open Big Ten competition with No. 2 Michigan on Saturday, Jan. 19. The meet will air live on Big Ten Network starting at 3 p.m. CT. Last year, the Wolverines upended the Orange and Blue 194.225 -193.700 in their dual meet and just barely edged out the Illini again at the Big Ten Championships by a score of 195.875-195.850. Illinois will look to defeat the 19-time Big Ten title winners for the first time since the 1990 Big Ten Championships, when the Illini won their only conference crown. It would also mark the first dual meet victory over Michigan since 1983.

    Scouting the Competition

    Michigan is off to their best start in program history, ranked second in the nation and boasting a season average and season high of 196.738 and 196.900, respectively. In addition, the Wolverines are currently ranked 16th in vault (48.988), tied for second on bars (49.213) and third in both balance beam (49.225) and floor (49.313). Through two meets this season, Michigan has won or shared six of a possible eight event titles. Finally, Joanna Sampson enters the weekend as the reigning Big Ten women's gymnast of the week. 

    Coach Landrus on the dual meet with michigan

    "I want us to go in and do normal gymnastics we do everyday in the gym. We can only control what we do. It's really important that we focus on ourselves and execute our routines as flawlessly as possible. If we do that, we'll walk out of Crisler Center extremely happy." 

    "It's a great Michigan team that has a lot of talent, but with that said, we also have a lot of talent on our squad. We just have to go and compete our hearts out and do what we know how to do."

    A Look Back

    At the season opening quad meet inside the McKale center in Tucson, the Fighting Illini women's gymnastics team finished third with a score of 193.750, behind Stanford (196.025) and host Arizona (195.850) and in front of San Jose State (192.550). In the season's first event, Illinois totaled a 48.250 on the balance beam where they were forced to count a fall. The Orange and Blue went on to score a 48.600 on floor, 48.400 on vault and 48.500 on bars. 

    First Time out

    Alina Weinstein paved the way for the Orange and Blue, finishing in second place in the All-Around with a score of 39.175, 0.300 behind leader Aubree Cristello from Arizona. Weinstein also fueled the floor exercise team score by posting a 9.825 in the event. Junior Sarah Fiedler achieved a career high on the uneven bars with a score of 9.850. In addition, Sunny Kato, Giana O'Connor and Heather Foley officially competed in the Illinois leotard for the first time. O'Connor competed in the all-around as she produced a meet high of 9.825 on the balance beam. Furthermore, Kato contributed scores to both beam and bars while Foley debuted on the vault. 

    Preseason #18 

    The Illinois women's gymnastics team began the 2013 season ranked 18th in the GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll, marking the sixth consecutive time and seventh overall that the Illini have been in the nation's top 25 heading into a season. Last season, the Orange and Blue started 15th, while their highest ever ranking (No. 13) came in 2010. "To be ranked in the Top-25 for the sixth consecutive year is a nice recognition as it shows the consistency in our program over the past several years," said Illinois head coach Kim Landrus. Five other Big Ten schools join the University of Illinois in the preseason top-25, ensuring an exciting 2013 conference season. 2012 Big Ten Champion Nebraska earned the highest ranking in the Big Ten, as they checked in at No. 7. Michigan was next at No. 10, followed by Ohio State at No. 14, Penn State at No. 16 and Minnesota at No. 23. In addition, the Illini are also set to battle No. 21 Missouri this year, bringing the total to eight preseason ranked opponents on the 2013 schedule. 

    New Year, New Look

    The Illini lost two decorated gymnasts following the graduation of standouts Kelsey Joannides and Hannah Welker. Joannides, who won the Big Ten title on vault as a freshman, capped off her collegiate career with a Big Ten Beam title and became the first two-time Big Ten Champion at Illinois since the championships were officially recognized by the conference in 1982-83. Welker competed on bars and floor last season in which she set career highs of 9.850 and 9.775, respectively. The Illini will also be without vault and floor standout Elise Gill, as she is out for the season with an injury. Despite the loss of Joannides, Welker and Gill, the Illini return 16 of 24 routines, including All-Big Ten honorees Alina Weinstein and Amber See. Illinois will look to improve upon last season's mark of securing 51 individual titles.

    2012 in Review

    • NCAA National Championships Qualifier: For the fifth year in a row, Illinois was represented at the NCAA National Championships, as junior Alina Weinstein competed at nationals to wrap up the year for the Illini, who finished tied for 18th in the nation. Weinstein was the 10th individual NCAA National qualifier in program history. 

    • Second-Ever NCAA Regional All-Around Champion: Junior Alina Weinstein advanced to the national meet by winning the all-around at the NCAA Champaign Regional with a career-high 39.450, making her just the second all-around regional champion in school history. She also tied for first on beam at the regional, becoming just the second Illini ever to win multiple regional titles, as she shares that honor with Nancy Thies, who won a combined seven crowns from 1976-77.

    • Big Ten Beam Champion: In her final conference meet, senior Kelsey Joannides won her second career Big Ten title, tying for first on beam with a 9.900. Joannides, who won the Big Ten title on vault as a freshman, earned the 13th individual conference crown in school history and became the first two-time Big Ten champion at Illinois since the championships were officially recognized by the Big Ten in 1982-83.

    • Three All-Big Ten Honorees: Three Illini earned All-Big Ten honors, as senior Kelsey Joannides was named to the first team, and junior Alina Weinstein and sophomore Amber See garnered second-team All-Big Ten honors. Joannides, who was a first-team honoree for the first time, notched her third career All-Big Ten laurel after also being named to the second team in 2009 and 2011. Weinstein was recognized by the conference for the first time in her career with the second-team nod after ranking fifth in the Big Ten in the all-around (39.260). See nabbed second-team honors after tying for the fourth-best RQS on floor (9.885) in the Big Ten.

    A Look Ahead

    Illinois returns to Champaign for it's home opener on Jan. 26 when they welcome the Michigan State Spartans. The contest is scheduled for 4 p.m. CT inside Huff Hall and it will also be the squad's annual Pink Meet. 

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