#14 Illinois Ready for Big Ten Quad Meet Saturday
March 13, 2014
The No. 14 University of Illinois women's gymnastics team will return to East Lansing, Mich. on Saturday, March 15, for the Big Ten Quad Meet scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. CT start inside the Jenison Field House. The meet will air on Big Ten Network at approximately 2:30 p.m. CT. Mike Wolf will be doing the Play-by-Play with Sharaya Musser on color commentary.
BIG TEN QUAD MEET IMPLICATIONS
No. 14 Illinois will be joined by No. 9 Nebraska, No. 23 Ohio State and host Michigan State at the Big Ten Quad Meet in East Lansing, Mich. The other quad meet will take place in Ann Arbor, Mich. and will feature No. 13 Minnesota, No. 15 Penn State, Iowa, and host No. 8 Michigan. The top two teams at each quad meet will earn the right to compete in the evening session at the Big Ten Championships the following weekend at Penn State. In addition, by the end of the day, a Big Ten regular season champion will be crowned.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
The Illini have already competed once this season against both the Spartans and the Buckeyes, but will square off with the Cornhuskers for the first time in 2014. Illinois opened its season in East Lansing on Jan. 10, where they defeated Michigan State 195.325-194.150. The Illini then welcomed Ohio State to Champaign on Feb. 23, downing the Buckeyes 196.775-195.925.
Nebraska enters Saturday's contest with a No. 9 national ranking. The Cornhuskers have not scored below a 196.250 all season and have only lost twice: to Michigan on Feb. 14 and last week vs. Arkansas. Nebraska's season high was a 197.225 set back on Feb. 8 at Penn State. The Huskers are ranked in the top-15 on every event, led by a No. 8 spot on beam with a RQS of 49.140.
The Cornhuskers are once again led by Emily Wong. The senior just claimed her second consecutive Big Ten Gymnast of the Week award, marking her fourth this season. Furthermore, Wong has won eight straight all-around titles as she ranks fourth in the nation with a RQS of 39.565. Wong is also ranked eighth on bars (9.91) and 10th on floor (9.925). Lastly, Wong has been named one of six finalists for the 2014 AAI Award. Also look out for Jessie Deziel who owns the second most titles on the team with eight. Deziel has claimed four titles on vault, two on bars and two in the all-around. Deziel is fresh off of a career high 9.975 on vault.
Ohio State arrives in East Lansing with a No. 23 national ranking and also a lot of momentum. The Buckeyes are fresh off of a season high 196.600 performance, their first score above 196 this season. Ohio State is ranked in the top-25 on both the uneven bars (22nd-48.995) and balance beam (22nd-48.925). Individually, the Buckeyes are led by Sarah Miller and Melanie Shaffer. Miller is ranked 42nd on vault and 20th on beam while Shaffer checks in at No. 26 on floor and 19th in the all-around.
Michigan State has yet to reach the 196 mark this year, posting a season best of 195.550 on Feb. 28. The Spartans best event is the balance beam, where they are ranked 29th in the country (RQS-48.810) and about 12 rankings higher than any of their other events. The Spartans are spearheaded by Alina Cartwright. The junior is ranked 22nd in the all-around with a 39.265 RQS. Cartwright has scored a 39.2 or higher in the last three meets and has posted a season high of 39.325. The Illinois native is also ranked 23rd on vault and 58th on beam.
ALL TIME SCHOOL RECORD HOLDER
On March 8, in front of over 2,000 fans inside Huff Hall, the 2014 Illini made history. The Orange and Blue broke the team total school record (196.975) set back in 2011 by scoring a 197.100 at Gym Jam vs. Lindenwood. Illinois scored over a 49 in all four events for the second time this season. In fact, every score on each event made the all-time top-10 list. First, the Illini recorded the third best vault score with a 49.250, followed by a 49.375, the third best bars score in school history. Next, Illinois tied the seventh best beam score with a 49.175 before ending the meet with a 49.300, which tied the ninth highest floor score.
The 2014 Fighting Illini continue to rewrite history as the season progresses. The squad now has four scores on the team total top-10 list, the most out of any other season. Illinois has not only secured the No. 1 (197.1) and No. 3 (196.775) spots on the list, but have done so in the last three weeks. 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 third (49.375, 3/8), fifth (49.250, 1/31), and ninth (49.225, 2/23) best scores in program history. Furthermore, Illinois has accomplished four scores in the top-10 balance beam list, with their highest coming on Feb. 23 with a 49.300 (third best all-time). Finally, on March 8, the Illini cracked the top-10 on floor with a season high 49.300.
Individually, Amber See is cementing a legacy of her own in her final season. See scored the third ever 10.0 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 9.95 or higher on floor exercise in their career.
Freshman Erin Buchanan and junior Sunny Kato made their way onto the top performances list on March 8. Buchanan tallied the third highest vault score in school history with a 9.925 while Kato recorded the second highest beam score with a 9.925 as well.
HITTING THE 196 // 9.9
Scoring higher than a 196 has always been a solid indicator of consistency for the Illini. Through ten meets this season, Illinois has surpassed the benchmark five times, including the record setting 197.1 on March 8. The Orange and Blue sit one high score away from another team total record, which is the six times that both the 2010 and 2013 squads recorded a 196 or higher.
Illinois has received several tremendous performances from its gymnasts in 2014, including 25 scores of 9.9 or higher. Freshmen Erin Buchanan and Emily Lennon have contributed a combined five total. Buchanan has registered a career high 9.925 on both vault and floor while Lennon achieved a career high 9.9 on both vault and beam. Sarah Fiedler is coming off of a career high 9.9 on beam on March 8. Liz McNabb recorded a career high 9.9 on beam on Jan. 31 vs. Iowa. Giana O'Connor accomplished a career high of 9.9 on beam on Feb. 23 and has tied her career high of 9.9 on floor three times this season. Sunny Kato has led the Illini on bars and beam, scoring a 9.9 or higher a combined total of six times on both events. However, Amber See is the leader with eight total times she has hit the mark. See has achieved the feat three times on vault, including her 10.0, and an impressive five times on floor.
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 the 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 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.
`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.
Illinois' beam lineup continues to increase its RQS, as it climbed to 49.125 this week, good for 11th in the country. The Illini have achieved a season high ranking of 8th in the country, which marked the highest 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 six times on beam this season, closing in on the seven times they achieved the feat in 2013. Furthermore, the Illini have recorded four scores in the all-time top-10 beam list, the most out of any other event this year.
Sunny Kato, Liz McNabb and Emily Lennon have combined to win nine individual titles for the Orange and Blue this year on beam. Kato currently holds the most with five, recently winning vs. Lindenwood on March 8. Liz McNabb follows right behind with three while Lennon won her lone title at Penn State on Feb. 15. Last but certainly not least, balance beam is where you can find the most Illini ranked in the top-100 (currently have four).
The Illini's highest RQS can be found on the floor exercise where they are tied for 14th in the country with a 49.185. Illinois has scored higher than a 49 in eight of its ten meets, including its last five. 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-45 in the country.
The Illini boast six total individual titles on floor this season. Amber See leads the pack with four, last winning on March 8. 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.
SUNNY SHINES BRIGHT
The Illini bars and beam specialist Sunny Kato continues to improve in her junior year. Despite competing in just two events, Kato leads the team with 10 individual titles, with five on beam and five on bars. In fact, Kato has already more than doubled the amount of individual titles she won from a year ago.
In addition, the junior has tied her career high of 9.9 on bars four times this season. However, Kato's best event is beam, where she recently got over the 9.9 hump after recording a career high 9.925 on March 8 vs. Lindenwood. Kato averages a 9.853 on beam and has only dropped below a 9.825 just once this season. The Chino Hills, Calif., native holds the anchor position on both events.
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 this season on floor and in the last seven meets on vault. Buchanan has also posted career a high of 9.925 on both vault and floor. Lastly, Buchanan has one floor and two vault titles to her name thus far.
Lennon has steadily improved her vault throughout the season. The freshman has hit a 9.825 or higher in five of the last six 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, competing in the last four 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 before returning home vs. Lindenwood on March 8 to tie her career high of 9.875.
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 all ten meets.
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 four floor titles and has only dropped below a 9.8 on floor once this season.
Illinois has certainly rallied behind Fiedler, who had only competed twice in the all-around before 2014. Fiedler is 36th in the nation and 12th in the Big Ten with an all-around RQS of 39.150, which leads all Illini. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native set a new personal best of 39.325 on March 8 and has only dropped below a 39 just once in her entire career. Fiedler has either tied or set new career highs in every event this year, reaching a 9.8 on vault, 9.875 on bars, 9.9 on beam and a 9.85 on floor.
Finally, Liz McNabb has broken out in her final year. The senior, who entered the season with two beam titles, has 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 six of the ten meets. McNabb has also been a solid contributor to the bars lineup, tallying a career best 9.825 four times in the last seven 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 before tallying a 196.475 in its win over Iowa on Jan. 31. The Orange and Blue achieved a 196.775 in its tri-meet victory over Ohio State and Central Michigan. Illinois then broke the program record in the home finale with a 197.1. Thus, the Illini averaged a 196.42 after five home meets inside Huff Hall this season.
ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
The Illini dropped one spot in the March 10 Troester rankings to No. 14 in the country. However, the Orange and Blue did raise its RQS by over a tenth to 196.285. The team's RQS is the fourth best in the Big Ten, following behind Michigan, Nebraska and Minnesota. Illinois climbed two spots on vault to No. 20 this week, pushing its RQS over 49.
Sunny Kato still boasts the highest individual ranking amongst Illini gymnasts, ranked 22nd in the country on balance beam. The junior's 9.87 RQS is also good for fourth place in the Big Ten. Amber See climbed six spots on floor to a national rank of 14. See also climbed one spot in the Big Ten rankings to No. 4 on floor. Giana O'Connor made a huge jump, up 30+ spots on floor to No. 34 with a RQS of 9.87. O'Connor also made strides in the all-around, ranked 39th in the country and 13th in the Big Ten. Other notable rankings include Erin Buchanan with her top-50 rankings on both vault and floor and Sarah Fiedler ranked 36th in the all-around.