#13 Illinois Set for Gym Jam Saturday vs. Lindenwood
March 6, 2014
The 13th ranked Illini women's gymnastics team returns to Huff Hall this weekend for its 2014 home finale. Illinois will take on Lindenwood University in its annual Gym Jam promotion this Saturday at 4 p.m. CT. Doors open one hour prior and admission is free. The meet will also be a double dual with the Illinois men's gymnastics team, as they will be simultaneously competing against UIC. Saturday also marks two other special occasions: Senior Day and Alumni Weekend.
Gym Jam is the big promotional event of the season for Illini gymnastics, this year presented by WCIA. Be sure to arrive early to take advantage of the great Gym Jam promotions going on Saturday. There will be free Illini gymnastics sunglasses for the first 500 fans and free food available for the first 1,000 fans in attendance.
Both the men's and women's teams will be welcoming back former gymnasts for Alumni Weekend, as all returnees will be acknowledged prior to the meet. We will be honoring the 1990 Big Ten Champion women's team and the following from the men's side: 1988 Big Ten Championship team, the 1989 NCAA and Big Ten Championship team and the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Big Ten Championship team.
On Saturday, the Illini will honor its three seniors Elizabeth McNabb, Sarah Fiedler and Amber See, for all their hard work and dedication to the program the last four years. The senior trio can boast that they were part of both the 2011 and 2013 NCAA Championship qualifying teams and recorded the highest national ranking finish (11th) in school history. They also have the highest team total ever recorded (196.975), set back in 2011.
Liz McNabb has been a key component on beam and bars throughout her career. This season McNabb has captured three beam titles to move her career total to five on the event. The Fishers, Ind. native set new career highs of 9.900 on beam and 9.825 on bars this year. McNabb rose to the occasion at the 2013 NCAA Championships, competing in three events for the only time that year. McNabb was voted the team's most improved gymnast in 2012 and was awarded Academic All-Big Ten in 2013. The senior has hit 66-of-77 routines in her career.
Sarah Fiedler has capped her four-year career by developing into quite the all-around performer for the Orange and Blue. Fiedler has set a new career high of 39.200, a mark she has achieved twice this season. The Lake Zurich, Ill. native also has a career high 9.800 on vault, 9.875 on bars, 9.850 on beam and a 9.850 on floor as well. Fiedler played a pivotal run in sending the Illini to the NCAA Championships last season, scoring a 9.800 on the final apparatus (beam) at the Morgantown Regional. Fiedler enters Saturday's meet with three career bars and one career beam title to her name. A two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and a Scholastic All-American in 2013, Fiedler has hit 115-of-124 routines in her career.
Amber See will leave Illinois with her name written in several places in the record book. See tied the all-time vault record and became just the third gymnast in school history to record a perfect 10.0. Speaking of vault success, See also won the Big Ten championship on the event in her freshman season. See is also just one of two gymnasts in program history to score a 9.950 or higher three times in her career on floor. The Minnetonka, Minn. native is a two-time Second-Team All-Big Ten selection, three-time Big Ten weekly award winner, All-Big Ten Championship Team selection in 2013, two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, and a Scholastic All-American in 2012. See boasts a career high 39.350 in the all-around along with her 25 career titles.
LAST TIME OUT
Last weekend, the Illini traveled to Norman, Okla. where they competed against the then ranked No. 2 Sooners. Oklahoma prevailed with a 197.250-195.850 win. Amber See and Erin Buchanan highlighted the individual performances, each achieving two top-five finishes. In addition, Giana O'Connor earned her third all-around title of the season after scoring a 39.125.
SCOUTING THE LIONS
Lindenwood enters the contest with a 191.695 RQS, which ranks 58th in the country. The Lions best event is vault where its RQS currently sits at 48.245. Lindenwood is coming off of a victory over Alaska Anchorage where they tallied a 192.700. The Lions season high is a 193.025, set back on Feb. 23. Emily Turik has been the Lions' consistent all-around performer all year. The senior had her best meet of the season on Feb. 23 as well, setting a new personal best of 38.850. Sophomore Courtney Heise has also produced big score potential, posting a career high 9.900 on bars and a 9.825 on floor.
Illinois' beam lineup climbed one more spot in the latest Troester rankings to No. 8 in the country with a RQS of 49.095. This marks the highest ranking on beam in two years. The Orange and Blue reached No. 7 back on Jan. 27, 2012, a program high initially set twice in the 2011 season.
The Illini also hold the No. 2 spot in the Big Ten beam rankings, only behind Nebraska's 49.140 RQS. Illinois has scored 49 or higher five times on beam this season, closing in on the seven times they achieved the feat in 2013. Furthermore, the Illini have recorded three scores in the all-time top-10 beam list, including their season high of 49.300, which ranks as the third best score.
Sunny Kato, Liz McNabb and Emily Lennon have combined to win eight individual titles for the Orange and Blue this year. Kato currently holds the most with four, recently winning at the State of Illinois Classic on Feb. 21. Liz McNabb follows right behind with three while Lennon won her lone title at Penn State on Feb. 15. The trio has all scored a 9.900 on beam this season. Last but certainly not least, balance beam is where you can find the most Illini ranked in the top-100 (currently have five).
BIG TEN WEEKLY HONORS
For the first time in school history, the Illini picked up multiple Big Ten weekly honors in the same week on Feb. 24. After a record setting double-header weekend, Amber See won Big Ten Event Specialist while Erin Buchanan won Big Ten Freshman of the Week. See earned the award after she scored a perfect 10 at the Illinois Classic and tied her career high of 9.950 on floor vs. Ohio State/Central Michigan.
Buchanan earned her third freshman of the week award after she finished in the top-five in vault and floor in both meets, including a career high 9.900 on vault. Buchanan previously won on Feb. 3 when she scored a 9.875 on both vault and floor in the win over Iowa, and again on Jan. 20 after setting a career high of 9.925 on floor.
On Feb. 17 the conference office delivered Emily Lennon her first collegiate award in the form of Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Lennon scored a 9.825 on vault and set a new career best of 9.900 on beam at Penn State.
The 2014 Fighting Illini continue to insert themselves into the record book. The squad has produced three scores to the top-10 team totals list. In fact, on Feb. 23, the Illini recorded the second highest score ever with a 196.775, finishing just behind the program mark of 196.975 set back in 2011. On Feb. 21, the Orange and Blue recorded the highest vault score of all-time with a 49.425, topping the previous best of 49.375 set back in 2009. On bars, Illinois has achieved the fourth and eighth best scores in program history with a 49.250 and 49.225, respectively. Furthermore, Illinois has accomplished three scores in the top-10 balance beam list, with their highest coming on Feb. 23 with a 49.300 (third best all-time).
Individually, Amber See is cementing a legacy of her own in her final season. See scored the third ever 10.0 in Illinois history on Feb. 21 and was the second to do so on vault, following in Alina Weinstein's footsteps. In addition, See continues to excel on floor, posting a 9.95 on Feb. 23. Thus, See and Weinstein are the only two gymnasts to record three scores of 9.950 or higher on floor exercise in their career.
HITTING THE 196
Scoring a 196 or higher has always been a solid indicator of consistency for the Illini. Through nine meets this season, Illinois has surpassed the benchmark four times. In fact, they've recorded three scores in the top-10 list, each of them 196.475 or higher, including a season high of 196.775 set on Feb. 23. Furthermore, the Orange and Blue sit two high scores away from another team total record, which is the six times that both the 2010 and 2013 squads recorded a 196 or higher.
BREATH OF `FRESH' AIR
Three freshmen have sparked the 2014 season for the Fighting Illini. Erin Buchanan and Emily Lennon made history together, becoming the first Illinois duo to both win Big Ten Freshman of the Week in the same season. In addition, Mary Jane Horth emerged on bars on Feb. 21 and provided quite the boost on the event.
Buchanan became the first Illinois gymnast to win Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times in a season. Buchanan has been very consistent all year, for the Virginia native has not dropped below a 9.825 all season on floor and in the last six meets on vault. Buchanan has also posted career highs of 9.900 on vault and 9.925 on floor. Lastly, Buchanan has one floor and one vault title to her name thus far.
Lennon has steadily improved her vault throughout the season. The freshman has hit a 9.825 or higher in four of the last five meets, including a career high 9.900 on Feb. 21. Lennon has also found success on the balance beam, where she has recorded scores of 9.800 or higher five times. Lennon's career high of 9.900 on beam won the Calgary native her first individual title of the season.
Finally, Horth has worked her way into the bars lineup starting for three straight meets. On the double-header weekend, Horth recorded a 9.875 on bars on Friday, finishing in second place at the State of Illinois Classic; then, followed that with a 9.825 vs. Ohio State/Central Michigan that Sunday. At Oklahoma, Horth tallied a 9.775.
SUNNY SHINES BRIGHT
The Illini bars and beam specialist Sunny Kato continues to improve in her junior year. Kato has already doubled the amount of individual titles she won from a year ago, currently sitting with eight. Kato has won four titles on bars and four titles on beam. In addition, the junior has scored a 9.900 three times on bars and once on beam this season, thus totaling 9.900 eight times overall in her career. Furthermore, Kato has hit 9.900 on bars in two of the last four meets and has only scored lower than a 9.825 on beam just once this year. Kato currently holds the anchor position on both events.
`SEE'ING A PERFECT SCORE
On Feb. 21, Amber See forever etched her name in Illinois history when she scored the program's third ever perfect 10.0. The senior accomplished the impressive feat on vault, tying the program record set by Alina Weinstein just last season. The first ever Illinois 10.0 came from Cara Pomeroy on bars in 2004. See was the ninth gymnast to score a 10.0 this season in all of NCAA gymnastics and the third to do so on vault.
The Illini's highest RQS can be found on the floor exercise where they are ranked 14th in the country with a 49.165. Illinois has scored higher than a 49 in seven of its nine meets, including its last four. Furthermore, Illinois has posted three scores of 49.250 or higher, including a season high of 49.275. Right now, Illinois has three gymnasts all ranked in the top-64 in the country.
The Illini boast five total individual titles on floor this season. Amber See leads the pack with three, last winning on Feb. 23 with a career high 9.950. Erin Buchanan won her lone title when she scored a career high 9.925 back on Jan. 18. Finally, Giana O'Connor won her first career floor title at Penn State on Feb. 15 when she tied her career high of 9.900.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
The old motto of `lead by example' definitely holds true to the 2014 edition of the Fighting Illini. Seniors Amber See, Elizabeth McNabb and Sarah Fiedler have saved their best seasons for last. Both See and Fiedler have competed in the all-around this year, with the latter doing so in every meet thus far.
See obtained her lone all-around title of the year vs. Iowa on Jan. 31 with a 39.325. See also recorded a career high of 39.350 at Minnesota on Jan. 25. See won three straight vault titles to start the season before picking up her fourth when she tallied the perfect 10.0 on Feb. 21. See has also won three floor titles and has scored a 9.900 or higher in four meets.
Illinois has certainly rallied behind Fiedler, who had only competed twice in the all-around before 2014, but has performed the task in every meet this season. Fiedler is tied for 33rd in the nation and 11th in the Big Ten with an all-around RQS of 39.115. Furthermore, Fiedler has only dropped below a 39 just once in her entire career and has produced a career best of 39.200 twice this season. Fiedler has either tied or set new career highs in every event this year, reaching a 9.800 on vault, 9.875 on bars, 9.850 on beam and a 9.850 on floor.
Finally, Liz McNabb has broken out in her final year. The senior, who entered the season with two beam titles, has already won three titles on the apparatus this year. Against Iowa on Jan. 31, McNabb recorded a career high 9.900 on beam and has scored at least a 9.825 in five out of nine meets. McNabb has also been a solid contributor to the bars lineup, tallying a career best 9.825 three times in the last six meets.
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HUFF
The Illini have found great success at home in 2014. On Jan. 18, the Orange and Blue took first place in its tri-meet vs. Centenary and Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a 196.175. Then on Jan. 31, Illinois tallied a 196.475 in its win over Iowa. Most recently, the Orange and Blue achieved a 196.775 in its tri-meet victory over Ohio State and Central Michigan. Thus, through four home meets this season, the Illini are averaging 0.480 points higher at home (196.250) than they are on the road (195.770).
ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
The Illini climbed two spots to No. 13 in the country this week with a RQS of 196.165. The team's RQS is the fourth best in the Big Ten, following behind Michigan, Nebraska and Minnesota.
Sunny Kato still boasts the highest individual ranking amongst Illini gymnasts, ranked 21st in the country on balance beam. The junior's 9.860 RQS is also good for fifth place in the Big Ten. Amber See is ranked in three events, plus the all-around, marking the most out of any Orange and Blue gymnast. See's highest ranking is on floor where the senior checks in at No. 20 in the country and No. 5 in the conference. Giana O'Connor made giant strides in this week's rankings, jumping over 30 spots on floor to No. 64. The sophomore also moved up five spots in the all-around in the Big Ten rankings.