Jan. 30, 2014
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The No. 17 Fighting Illini women's gymnastics team returns to the friendly confines of Huff Hall Friday night when they welcome the Iowa Hawkeyes for a dual meet at 7 p.m. The meet is also the Illini's annual Pink Meet event, as we encourage all fans in attendance to wear pink. The meet will be taped on Big Ten Network and aired Saturday morning at 9 a.m. CT. BTN's announce team will consist of Lisa Byington on play-by-play and Olympian Shawn Johnson on color commentary. Doors open one hour before hand and admission is free.
LAST TIME OUT
In a meet between two Big Ten schools ranked in the top-15, it naturally came down to the final event. However, Minnesota then got the upper hand and delivered the Illini their first loss of the season by the score of 196.225-195.350. Amber See, Sarah Fiedler and Sunny Kato all took home individual titles last week. Illinois' best event came on floor where they scored a 49.050.
SCOUTING THE HAWKEYES
In 2013, the Fighting Illini rallied on the final rotation at home to edge out the Hawkeyes by a tenth of a point. Iowa had led the entire way but was forced to count a low score on beam after two gymnasts fell. Meanwhile, Illinois marched out a consistent lineup on floor that produced a 49.150. Thus, the Orange and Blue defeated Iowa 195.975-195.875. The last time Illinois lost to Iowa in a dual meet was back on Jan. 24, 2009.
This season, Iowa has started 0-4, losing dual meets to Utah State, Ball State, Georgia and Nebraska. The squad averages a 192.113, with their best event coming on floor exercise, ranked 46th in the country with a 48.294. The Hawkeyes highest score of the season came at Georgia where they tallied a 194.675. Iowa is led by Angel Metcalf who averaged a 38.950 in the all-around over the first three weeks.
This Friday, Illinois is asking fans to `Think Pink' for their annual Pink Meet event. It will mark the seventh straight year Illinois has sponsored different activities to help raise awareness about cancer during the meet. The Illini are encouraging all fans to wear their favorite pink apparel to support the cause as the Illinois marketing department will also be giving away exclusive pink t-shirts for the first 100 fans in attendance. In addition, we are inviting the children of breast cancer survivors and warriors to participate and march in with the Illini gymnasts. If you would like to be a part of the event, please contact Karl Feak at 217-244-2797 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday's Pink meet also hits home for freshman Erin Buchanan, whose mom is a breast cancer survivor. "After she was diagnosed, that's all I wanted to do was compete in a Pink Meet," said Buchanan. "This will be my first one and that means a lot to me. My mom won't be here this weekend but she'll be here next year hopefully. Her strength inspires me everyday. She'll be in the back of my mind the entire time and this whole thing is for a great cause."
ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
After a slight letdown at Minnesota, Illinois slipped four spots to No. 17 in the country in the week four rankings. The team's average is the fourth best in the Big Ten, as Illinois looks to gain ground on Minnesota, Nebraska, and Michigan. The Illini are averaging over a 49 on floor exercise where they are ranked 13th in the country. However, their highest ranking can still be found on beam, where they check in at No. 10.
Sunny Kato has the highest individual ranking, as she moved to No. 14 on the balance beam with an average of 9.858. Freshman Erin Buchanan leads the way on floor exercise, checking in at No. 23 with a 9.875. Senior Amber See is ranked in the top-50 in three categories, with her highest being No. 25 in the all-around.
A trio of all-arounders have emerged to start the 2014 season for the Illini. Amber See is currently ranked the highest, checking in at No. 25 this week in the all-around with an average of 39.117. See has claimed three straight vault titles along with one floor title to start her last season at Illinois. The Minnesota native also set a new career high of 39.350 last week against the Gophers. Sarah Fiedler checks in next, ranked 33rd with a 39.050. The senior had only competed in the all-around twice before this season, but is off to a great start after three weeks, and still hasn't scored below a 39 in her career. Finally, Giana O'Connor returned to the fold after competing in the all-around for every meet last season. The sophomore produced a strong week two by winning her first all-around title with a 39.250. O'Connor's 38.917 average is tied for 47th in the country.
B1G FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
On Jan. 20, the conference office named Erin Buchanan Big Ten Freshman of the Week. In the home-opening tri-meet, Buchanan achieved a second place showing on vault with a 9.775, and then recorded the highest marks of the day with a 9.925 on floor. The score earned the Haymarket, Va. native her first collegiate individual title. Buchanan became the third gymnast in Illinois history to be named Freshman of the Week, following in Amber See's and Giana O'Connor's footsteps.
The Fighting Illini started the 2014 season on a historic note. In week one, the squad's 195.325 was the highest score to open a season and the first one to score above a 195. Retrospectively, the three years (2009, 11, 13) the Illini qualified for the NCAA Championships, the teams averaged a 193.783 in week one action. Also, the 49.275 on beam was the highest ever score recorded on an event in an Illinois season opener as well.
In the home opening tri-meet, the Illini delivered a dominant 196.175 win over Centenary and Wisconsin-Eau Claire. It was the first time that Illinois reached the 196 benchmark in week two action. Illinois also excelled in its last event of the day, recording a 49.250 on floor.
BEAMING WITH DELIGHT
At Michigan State, Illinois scored a 49.275 on beam, which marked the third highest score in school history on the apparatus. Only the 2011 team has done better, scoring a 49.325 at Michigan State on Feb. 25 and then the record mark of 49.375 at the State of Illinois Classic on March 12. Furthermore, the Illini's 49.275 on beam was the second best score in week one college gymnastics. Only Oklahoma achieved a higher mark with a 49.375. Individually, the Illini sent five girls in its beam lineup to the podium. Elizabeth McNabb led the way in first place with a 9.875. Sunny Kato, Sarah Fiedler, Emily Lennon and Amber See all followed suit in a four-way tie for second place with a 9.850 each.
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