Women's Gymnastics
#17 Illini To Compete in State of Illinois Classic

Sunny Kato picked up a bars and beam title this past weekend, brining her season total to four overall
Sunny Kato picked up a bars and beam title this past weekend, brining her season total to four overall

March 14, 2013

Complete Notes | Kato Interview | Live Scoring

Week 10 Notes: 

#17 Fighting Illini at the State of Illinois Classic

(feat. Illinois State, Northern Illinois, UIC)

March 16, 2013 // 5:00 p.m. CT // Chicago, Ill. // Physical Education Building


The #17 University of Illinois women's gymnastics team compete in the annual State of Illinois Classic, which pits the four major gymnastics programs in Illinois against each other. UIC hosts this year's meet in Chicago on Saturday, March 16, at 5 p.m. CT inside the Physical Education Building. Last year, the Illini took first place at the Illinois Classic, scoring a 196.150 in the process. 


Host UIC enters the meet ranked 52nd in the country with a RQS of 193.315. Their highest ranked event is vault where the Flames are 40th with a RQS of 48.765. Last weekend against the Illini, UIC scored a 192.625. Meanwhile, Illinois State joins the fray ranked 50th with a RQS of 193.405. They cracked the top-50 in both bars (39th - 48.670) and beam (49th - 48.265). The Redbirds' Sami King poses the biggest threat in the all-around competition for she is individually ranked 38th with a 39.085. Finally, Northern Illinois enters as the highest ranked opponent of the three at No. 47 and a RQS of 193.860. The Huskies' highest event RQS is on floor where they score a 48.770. 


Twice was nice for the Illini this past weekend, as the Orange and Blue picked up a pair of victories while scoring a 196.300 in both. Illinois first traveled to Mizzou, where the Illini earned their first dual road meet victory of the season. On Sunday, seniors Alina Weinstein, Jaclyn Kantecki, Elise Gill and Macy Hyatt were honored as it was their last meet inside Huff Hall. Then, Alina Weinstein, Giana O'Connor, Elizabeth McNabb and Sunny Kato all took home individual titles as Illinois swept the competition.


The Illini have found tremendous success at the State of Illinois Classic as of late. The Orange and Blue have won the meet against in-state foes for five consecutive years, scoring above a 196 in the previous four. In addition, many records have been set at this annual meet. The 2010 Illini posted the second best bars (49.450) and floors (49.450) score in school history at the Illinois Classic. Then the 2011 squad recorded the highest team total ever scored at Illinois with a 196.975, including a new beam record of 49.375. Finally, during the Illini's current five Illinois Classic meet winning streak, Orange and Blue gymnasts have captured an impressive 26 individual titles. 

"It's really neat that the state of Illinois has four teams that can all get together and show what the state is made of gymnastically and show who's the best in the state," said Coach Landrus. "We get psyched up every year to go out and compete against the other three Illinois teams."


The Illini are coming off of a season high on floor, after the 2013 squad posted the fourth highest team score in school history with a 49.425. Jordan Naleway (9.800), Tori Fujinami (9.800) and Giana O'Connor (9.850) all tied their respective career highs while Heather Foley (9.850) achieved a new one. Amber See also set a new career high when she tied the second highest score in Illinois history on floor with a 9.950. See is now one of seven Illinois gymnasts to achieve such a score. Furthermore, the junior achieved her first floor title of the season at Missouri when she scored a 9.925. Finally, Alina Weinstein continued her tremendous year on floor when she tied the Illinois record she broke on Feb. 16, by posting a 9.975 on Senior Day. Thus, the senior has captured five floor titles in the previous six meets, and six overall this year, as she now ranks sixth in the country on the event with a RQS of 9.920.


This past weekend's two meets saw the emergence of an Illinois triple threat in the all-around competition. The ever diligent Alina Weinstein paved the way in the first meet at Missouri when she scored a 39.425. Two days later on Senior Day, Weinstein then improved that mark to score a 39.500. Thus, the senior has scored at least a 39.425 in the all-around in five of the past six meets. Next, Giana O'Connor has been a consistent all-arounder this year but really broke out this past weekend when the freshman tallied a new career high of 39.275. Then this past Sunday, O'Connor once again hit the 39.275 mark, tying the career high. Last but not least is junior Amber See, who had just returned from injury the week before against Penn State where she scored a 38.975 in the all-around. However, last Friday, See earned a new career high of 39.275, but the junior wasn't done there. On Sunday, See took her performance one step further and posted yet another new career high, this time a 39.325. 


A week after tying 2011 alum Allison Buckley for the highest all-around score in school history with a 39.550, the senior outdid herself to stand alone as one of the all-time Illini greats by achieving a 39.600 in the meet vs. Iowa on Feb. 16. The New Jersey native started the meet by scoring a 9.875 on the first three events. Then, Weinstein recorded a near perfect floor routine as she broke the Illinois floor record with a 9.975. The score bested an event record that originated in 2000 by Phaedra Dixon


After an impressive double meet weekend in which she took home five individual titles, Alina Weinstein now boasts 18 titles in 2013. That season total puts the New Jersey native in sixth place on the Illinois single season event titles list. In addition, her 35 total career titles puts the senior in sole possession of fifth place on the all-time Illinois title list. Weinstein is three titles shy of tying Denise Lamborn (1987-90) in fourth place and seven short of tying Cara Pomeroy (2004-07) in third.  Weinstein has also captured multiple titles in all three other events, including three on vault, two on bars and two on beam. Not to mention, the fierce competitor has achieved five all-around titles this year as well. 


Though she may be a sophomore, 2013 marks the first year of competition for Sunny Kato, who experienced a season ending injury a year ago. The California native has been an elegant performer for the Illini on bars and beam. In fact, Kato has produced the highest score on bars for the Orange and Blue for the past four out of six meets. Kato earned her first collegiate title at Michigan on Jan. 19, when she tied for first on beam with a 9.825. Next, in front of 2,316 fans at Gym Jam on Feb. 16, Kato set a career high 9.900 on bars and walked away with her first title in the event. One week later at Ohio State, Kato set a new career high on beam with a 9.900 as well. This past weekend, Kato continued to shine earning another title on beam and bars while tying her career highs on both. 


Giana O'Connor  has impressed many along the way in her freshman campaign. O'Connor has competed in the all-around in all ten meets this season. The freshman has scored at least a 39 in seven meets, including the last four. On Feb. 1 vs. Nebraska, O'Connor's 39.050 edged out teammate and Illinois all-around record holder Alina Weinstein for the first time all season and earned the Streamwood, Ill. native Big Ten Freshman of the Week. This past weekend, O'Connor not only achieved a new career high in the all-around but also did it twice, scoring a 39.275 and earning her second Big Ten Freshman of the Week award because of it. Thus, she joins teammate Amber See as the only Illini to capture the freshman award twice in a season. Furthermore, O'Connor earns the Orange and Blue their fourth  weekly award of 2013.


On Feb. 11, Alina Weinstein earned Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors for tying Allison Buckley's Illinois all-around record of 39.550. So when the senior improved her score to a 39.600 the next weekend against Iowa to become the sole leader in the program's history, the conference acknowledged her efforts once again with the weekly award. Weinstein now has three Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors in her career and became the first Illini gymnast to win in two straight weeks. Weinstein, along with Michigan's Joanna Sampson, are the only two Big Ten gymnasts to win consecutively this season.


The Illini have scored a 195 or above in eight of their ten meets this season. In addition, Illinois has now eclipsed the 196 mark four times, including the past two meets; thus, already besting the 2011 squad, who hit the 196 or above score three times. In the past five years, the 2010 squad did it best, achieving the feat an impressive six times.


A week from now the Fighting Illini will be departing to Michigan State to compete in the Big Ten Championships. The meet is broken up into an afternoon and evening session, with the top four teams in the latter. As of now, Penn State and Illinois are duking it out for the final spot in the evening session, as the Nittany Lions hold the smallest of leads at 0.055 (196.085-196.030). 

"Our goal is absolutely the evening session but we can't control what Penn State does," said Coach Landrus. "We can only control what we do so we have to make sure we only focus on ourselves and go out there and get a high score because this will also go into our RQS. Whatever session we're in at Big Tens that score will also help us be a seeded team going into Regionals."