Marijka Botterman is doing some of her best gymnastics as of late.
March 20, 2008
Saturday, March 22, 2008 // 2 p.m. // Huff Hall // Champaign, Ill.
Tickets Available at the Door
Adults $5 // UI Staff $4 // Youth $2 // UIUC Students Free
Follow the Action Live
Live Video and Live Scoring will be available at fightingillini.com. Full routines for Illinois will be shown on the video. An Illini All-Access subscription ($6.95/month) is required to view the video
The 24th-ranked Fighting Illini will close out the regular season this Saturday when they host the State of Illinois Classic at Huff Hall at 2 p.m. The competition features the four Division I women's gymnastics team from the state - Illinois, Illinois State, Illinois-Chicago and Northern Illinois - and serves as the unofficial state championship. The Illini appear to be peaking with the postseason approaching as they've posted their top two scores of the season in the last two weeks, including a season-high 195.725 last week against UIC.
Buckley Earns Weekly Big Ten Honor
Freshman Allison Buckley was named Big Ten Gymnast of the Week (March 19) after winning four individual titles and leading the Illini to a win over Illinois-Chicago last Saturday. Buckley posted the second best all-around score in Illinois history with a 39.450 to earn her fourth all-around title of the season. She also won titles on vault (9.900), beam (9.925) and floor exercise (9.900) against the Flames. Her 9.925 mark on beam equaled the second best score in program history and her 9.900 on vault equaled her career-high. It was Buckley's first career weekly honor and the first for an Illini since Cara Pomeroy on Feb. 8, 2006.
Illini Vault Into Record Book
For the second straight year Illinois set a new school record on vault in a meet against the UIC Flames. Last year, the Illini put up a 49.125 against UIC in early March, this year they did one better and totaled a 49.150 on vault last week against the Flames. Four Illini set or tied their career-highs on the event and another set a season-high to take the top spot in the record book. Freshman Allison Buckley led the way with a career-best 9.900 to win the individual crown, while senior Michelle McGrady (CH 9.875), freshman Melissa Fernandez (CH 9.800), junior Marijka Botterman (SH 9.800), sophomore Nicole Cowart (9.775) and sophomore Sarah Schmidt (CH 9.725) all contributed to the record as well.
Last Time Out: Illini Put Out Flames
Last weekend, the Illini set a new school record on vault (49.150) and scored a season-high on floor exercise (49.050) en route to their highest team score of the year (195.725) in a road victory at Illinois-Chicago. Freshman Allison Buckley highlighted the day for the Illini, winning four individual titles and narrowly missing the school's all-around record. Buckley won the vault (9.900), beam (9.925), floor (9.900) and all-around (39.450), while sophomore Sarah Schmidt won the bars (9.875) to make it a clean sweep for the Orange and Blue. Unfortunately, Illinois was forced to count a fall on beam, but still managed to post the eighth-highest team score in school history and the highest team score this season by nearly half a point.
Illini In the Rankings
The Illini jumped back into the top-25 this week at No. 24 after spending the last two weeks just outside GymInfo rankings. The Orange and Blue are up two spots from last week and remain seventh in the South Central Regional rankings. Illinois ranks 21st in the nation and 4th in the region on bars (48.790) and 23rd in the nation on vault (48.840). Freshman Allison Buckley is currently ranked 21st in the nation on floor exercise (9.880), 26th in the all-around (39.205), 42nd on vault (9.855) and 55th on beam (9.825). Junior Julie Crall is ranked 24th on beam (9.860), sophomore Nicole Cowart is ranked 59th in the all-around (38.840) and sophomore Sarah Schmidt comes in at 84th on bars (9.800). The Illini have been ranked as high as No. 19 this season (after week one). All rankings are based on Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) rather than average scores.
Sizing up the Competition
Illinois-Chicago: UIC comes into this Saturday's meet as the 50th-ranked team in the nation and is 12th in the South Central Region with an RQS of 192.155. The Flames posted their highest score of the season (193.850) in a loss to the Fighting Illini last Saturday. Junior Annie Kachman was named the Midwest Independent Conference Gymnast of the Week last week after winning the all-around in a mid-week meet against Illinois state (38.875) and then following that up with a career-high 39.250 on Saturday against the Illini to take second behind only Illinois' Allison Buckley.
Illinois State: ISU is ranked 48th in the nation and 11th in the region this week with an RQS of 192.260. ISU's season-high of 193.975 came on Feb. 8 in a victory over Rhode Island. In the Redbirds last meet on March 11 they fell to UIC by a score of 193.625-192.150. ISU's top individuals have been junior Meghan Koshman with a top all-around score of 39.100 and a top vault of 9.900. Koshman won the vault against UIC last week with 9.850, while sophomore Jessica Prousa won the beam with a 9.775. Saturday will be the first meeting between Illinois and ISU this season.
Northern Illinois: NIU is ranked 38th in the country and ninth in the region with and RQS of 193.155. Last week the Huskies won a triangular meet against Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan with a score of 193.625 to improve to 9-2 on the season. Their season-high of 194.525 came on March 2 in a triangular win over UIC and Central Michigan. The Huskies are led by all-arounders Leah Johnson and Holly Reichard, who have high scores of 38.925 and 39.050, respectively. Illinois and NIU have not met this season. They were set to compete in DeKalb on Feb. 24, but the Illini instead went to Iowa after the tragic shooting on the NIU campus.
This Week's Rotation Order
Illinois will rotate in the regular Olympic order of vault-bars-beam-floor at the State of Illinois Classic. NIU will start on bars, Illinois State on beam and UIC on floor exercise.
Last Year at the State of Illinois Classic
The 20th-ranked Illini struggled at the State of Illinois Classic last year, which were held in DeKalb, Ill. Senior Cara Pomeroy brought her A-game as she won event titles on both bars and beam. On bars, she set a new season and team high with a 9.950, and on the balance beam her score of 9.775 tied with UIC's Jessie Jaworowicz for the meet's top performance. As a team, the Illini posted the second highest uneven bars score in school history (49.250), but struggled on the other three events to finish third in the four-team field with a score of 193.725. Illinois-Chicago (194.625) took first, host Northern Illinois (194.125) was second and Illinois State (188.500) was a distant fourth.
Buckley off to Blazing Start
Freshman Allison Buckley has wasted no time establishing herself as a frontrunner for Big Ten Freshman of the Year and as one of the best freshmen in program history. The Schaumburg, Ill. native has competed in the all-around in every meet this year, capturing 16 individual titles (vault-4, bars-1, beam-1, floor-6, AA-4) which is the fourth most by an Illini in a single season.
Buckley was named Big Ten Gymnast of the Week last week after winning four individual titles (vault, beam, floor, AA) and nearly breaking the Illinois all-around record. Her score of 39.450 was just shy of Ashley Williams' record of 39.475. Just a week earlier she scored a 39.375 in the all-around, which equaled the second best score in school history at the time. In addition, her score of 9.925 on beam equaled the second best score on the event in school history.
She is currently ranked 21st in the nation on floor (9.880), 26th in the all-around (39.205 RQS), 42nd on vault (9.855) and 55th on beam (9.825).
Schmidt, Botterman Give Illini A Boost
Sophomore Sarah Schmidt is now back to full strength after being hobbled by an ankle injury for the past several weeks. Last weekend at UIC, Schmidt was back in the all-around for the first time since Iowa on Jan. 25, just before the injury. She won the bars title for the second straight week with a season-high 9.875 and also posted a career-high vault of 9.725. She has four individual titles on the season, three on bars and one in the all-around. Prior to her injury, Schmidt won the all-around competition with a career-best 39.050 at Iowa.
In addition to Schmidt, Marijka Botterman has been back on her usual three events for the past two weeks (vault, bars and floor) since missing some action with a knee injury. She appears to be peaking at the right time as she set or tied her season-high on all three events last week at UIC (9.800 on vault, 9.825 on bars and 9.800 on floor). Botterman also exhibitioned on beam last weekend and is pushing to crack the line-up and get back into the all-around.
Junior Julie Crall has had a successful return this year after suffering a season-ending Achilles' tear on March 9 of last season. Crall had been a top performer for the Illini in each of her first two seasons, earning second team All-Big Ten honors in both her freshman and sophomore campaigns. Crall has five event titles this season, all on beam, and is ranked 24th in the nation and sixth in the South Central Region on the event (9.850 RQS). She has also been competing bars for the Illini, earning a career-high 9.825 to take third against Missouri, and is currently working on her vault with the possibility of cracking the line-up in the near future.
Not only does this season have the making of a great one for Illinois, but the future also looks bright for the Orange and Blue. Last week against UIC, only two of 24 routines were by seniors (Melcarek's bar and McGrady's vault) and 16 of the 24 routines were by freshmen and sophomores.
In addition to Buckley, the three other Illini freshman have made an immediate impact. Melissa Fernandez has been a constant contributor on vault, beam and floor throughout the season and has been at her best lately, scoring a career-high 9.800 on vault last week at UIC and a career-high 9.850 on beam against Missouri two weeks ago (3/8). Lashlee Morris had been in the beam line-up in every meet before suffering a foot injury prior to the March 8 meet against Mizzou, but she returned to the event last week with a 9.725. Morris has also competed on bars and floor at times this season. Samantha Perino saw time in the floor line-up earlier this year, and is still pushing to crack the line-up on beam. Even sophomore Laura Woolf made her first appearances for the Illini earlier this season, cracking the line-up on vault on two occasions.
Illinois heads to the Big Ten Championships next weekend in Ann Arbor, Mich. Competition at Michigan's Crisler Arena is set to begin at 2 p.m. ET/1 CT on Saturday, March 29.