Junior Melissa Fernandez was a first-team All-Big Ten selection for the first time in her career.
March 26, 2010
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Four Illini earned All-Big Ten honors, as selected by the coaches, on Friday night when the 2010 Women's Gymnastics All-Conference teams were announced at the Big Ten Championships banquet at Ohio State's Huntington Club. Senior Sarah Schmidt and juniors Allison Buckley and Melissa Fernandez were named to the first team, while senior Nicole Cowart garnered second-team All-Big Ten honors.
Three first-team selections is the most by any team this season and the most in one season for the Illini since 1990 when Illinois last won the Big Ten Championship title. Four overall selections tied for the top spot in the conference with Michigan, who had two first-teamers and a pair of second-teamers. Last season, the Orange and Blue had five gymnasts named second-team All-Big Ten.
"We have been consistent enough to show that our young ladies are among the best in the conference," head coach Bob Starkell said. "It is a reflection of what the coaches in our conference see in our team, so all of their hard work has paid off. These four are each all-arounders, so it directly reflects how well they do on all four events. I am extremely excited for them, and it should give them a good feeling of how they will match-up with everyone tomorrow."
Schmidt picked up first-team honors for the first time in her career after a stellar season where she won the floor title at all six Big Ten duals and tied her own school record on floor (9.950) against Michigan on Feb. 27. The Hartland, Wis., native tied the fifth-best all-around score in school history with a career-high 39.425 on March 13 and is second on the team with 12 individual titles. She ranks second in the conference on floor, third on bars and sixth in the all-around heading into the championships. This is the second All-Conference award for Schmidt after notching second-team honors last season.
Buckley earned first-team accolades for the second time in her career, as she also collected the honor in 2008. The Schaumburg, Ill., native set the Illinois all-around record with a 39.525 on Feb. 6 against Penn State and leads the team with 14 individual titles this season. She has 41 career event titles, which is tied for second on the UI all-time list with Cara Pomeroy. Buckley is currently ranked fourth on floor and in the all-around, fifth on vault and seventh on beam heading into the conference showdown. This is the third All-Conference award for Buckley after picking up second-team honors last season.
Fernandez notched first-team All-Big Ten honors for the first time in her career while setting or tying her career high on every event this season. The Eudora, Kan., native is third on the team with 11 individual titles and tied the third-best beam score (9.925) in UI history on Feb. 6 at Penn State. In the conference, she ranks fourth on bars, second on beam and fifth in the all-around heading into Big Tens.
Cowart collected second-team All-Big Ten honors for the second straight year, which also marked the third All-Conference selection of her career, as she earned first team honors back in 2007 in her freshman campaign. She has competed in the all-around in every meet this season, topping the 39-mark seven times. Cowart currently ranks ninth in the conference in the all-around and 10th on floor heading into tomorrow's championships.
Along with All-Big Ten selections, senior Laura Woolf (Deerfield, Ill.) was named Illinois' honoree for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. The student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, the student-athletes must be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.
In addition to the awards, the rotation order was drawn for Saturday's Big Ten Championships. The Illini will begin the competition on the floor and then move on to a bye in rotation 2. Illinois full rotation order goes like this: floor, bye, vault, bars, bye, beam, bye.
The Fighting Illini compete at the Big Ten Championships, hosted by Ohio State, on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT. The Championships will take place at St. John Arena and be televised live on the Big Ten Network. Mike Leiderman, Eddie Umphrey and Elise Ray will call the action. Individual awards, including Gymnast, Freshman and Coach of the Year, will be released at the conclusion of the competition.
2010 Women's Gymnastics All-Conference Teams
Allison Buckley, Illinois
Melissa Fernandez, Illinois
Sarah Schmidt, Illinois
Rebecca Simbhudas, Iowa
Kylee Botterman, Michigan
Sarah Curtis, Michigan
Nicole Curler, Michigan State
Alexis Russell, Minnesota
Sharaya Musser, Penn State
Brandi Personett, Penn State
Nicole Cowart, Illinois
Houry Gebeshian, Iowa
Jessa Hansen, Iowa
Natalie Beilstein, Michigan
Kelsey Knutson, Michigan
Kelsey Morley, Michigan State
Rochelle Robinson, Michigan State
Rebecca Best, Ohio State
Hillary Dow, Ohio State
Natalie Ettl, Penn State
2010 Big Ten Women's Gymnastics Sportsmanship Honorees
Illinois - Laura Woolf
Iowa - Jessa Hansen
Michigan - Sarah Curtis
Michigan State - Rochelle Robinson
Minnesota - Alexis Russell
Ohio State - Hillary Dow
Penn State - Natalie Ettl