Women's Gymnastics
NCAA Championships Await #16 Illini

Kim Landrus and the Illini return to the NCAA Championships for the third time in the past five years
Kim Landrus and the Illini return to the NCAA Championships for the third time in the past five years

April 17, 2013

Week 13 Notes: 

#16 Fighting Illini at the NCAA Championships

April 19-21, 2013 // Los Angeles, Calif. // Pauley Pavilion 

Championship Central // Complete Notes

Friday, April 19: Semifinal #1 // 2 p.m. CT // Live Video | Live Scoring
Saturday, April 20: Team Finals // 6 p.m. CT // Live Video | Live Scoring
Sunday, April 21: Individual Event Finals // 3 p.m. CT // Live Video | Live Scoring


The No. 16 Fighting Illini women's gymnastics team head to Los Angeles to compete in the NCAA Championships for the third time in school history. The meet will take place from April 19-21 at the Pauley Pavilion, hosted by UCLA. The Orange and Blue will get their shot to advance to the Super Six in the first of two semifinal sessions on Friday, April 19, at 2 p.m. CT, along with fellow competitors No. 1 Florida, No. 4 Georgia, No. 5 LSU, No. 8 Minnesota and No. 9 Stanford. Illinois received the Olympic order, thus they will start on vault and end on floor. 

The top three teams from each of Friday's semifinal sessions will advance to the Super Six team finals on Saturday, April 20. The all-around champion will be crowned on the first day, while individual event finals are scheduled for Sunday, April 21, at 3 p.m. CT. The top four individuals on each event from each session will move on to Sunday.


The Illini will carry a lot of momentum into the NCAA Championships this weekend. After scoring a season high  196.475 at the Big Ten Championships, the Orange and Blue once again scored above a 196 at the Morgantown Regional to advance past Nebraska and to Nationals. 

Senior Alina Weinstein looks to once again be the catalyst of the squad after becoming the first Illini to win three regional titles at a single NCAA meet. The senior finished first in the all-around with a 39.550, beating out Big Ten all-around champion Emily Wong's 39.225. Weinstein also achieved a first place showing on floor with a 9.9 and tied for first on balance beam with Michigan's Katie Zurales with another 9.9. In addition, Weinstein enters Nationals as a regular season First-Team All-American on Floor and Second-Team in the All-Around. 

Two-time Big Ten Freshmen of the Week Giana O'Connor will boost the Illini as the second all-around competitor for the Orange and Blue. O'Connor has achieved a career high 39.275 and has scored above a 39.1 in both post-season meets. Junior Amber See is a regular on vault, beam and floor and has found great success in the latter, tallying a 9.95 in a second place finish at Big Ten's. Finally, first-time competitor, Sunny Kato looks to make an impact on bars and beam where she has posted career high's of 9.9 in each. 

Friday's Competition Draw

Session 1 // Friday, April 19 at 12 p.m. (PT)

Rank       Team          Region            Regional Score      NQS               Starting Event
1 Florida Gainesville 198.400 396.240 Floor
4 Georgia Corvallis 197.425 394.685 Bye before Bars
5 LSU Columbus 197.275 394.455 Beam
8 Minnesota Gainesville 197.100 393.715 Bars
9 Stanford Norman 196.800 393.510 Bye before Floor
12 ILLINOIS Morgantown 196.025 392.235 Vault

Session 2 // Friday, April 19 at 6 p.m. (PT)

Rank       Team          Region            Regional Score      NQS               Starting Event
2 Oklahoma Norman 197.375 394.945 Floor
3 Alabama Tuscaloosa 197.400 394.815 Bye before Bars
6 UCLA Columbus 196.950 394.150 Beam
7 Michigan Morgantown 196.725 393.960 Bars
10 Utah Tuscaloosa 196.400 393.505 Bye before Floor
11 Arkansas Corvallis 196.950 393.385 Vault


When assessing the field of teams at the NCAA Championships you have to start off by recognizing the `Big Four.' There have only been four schools in the 31-year history of NCAA women's gymnastics to claim the championship, in Alabama, UCLA, Georgia and Utah. Alabama is seeking their third straight title and enters as the No. 3 seed. Furthermore, 10-time champion Geogia is the No. 4 seed, Utah is seeded 10th, while host UCLA is sixth. 

Florida earned the top seed with a NQS of 396.240, powered by an impressive 198.4 at Regionals. Meanwhile, No. 2 Oklahoma (394.945) will also look to dethrone the trend of previous champs as the Sooners are the top seed in session two. Fifth seeded LSU and Arkansas at 11 round out the SEC schools in contention. Joining Illinois from the Big Ten conference is No. 7 Michigan and No. 8 Minnesota. Finally, there's No. 9 seed Stanford, whom the Illini competed against in their first meet of 2013. 


The Illini will be making their third NCAA Championships appearance in the past five years. Thus, the seven upperclassmen have graced the national stage before in 2011, with Sarah Fiedler, Jaclyn Kantecki, Amber See and Alina Weinstein seeing the competition floor. In addition, senior Alina Weinstein brings the most experience to the team, earning a second team All-American honor on floor in 2011 and qualifying for NCAA's as an individual last year. 

The first time Illinois qualified in 2009, the squad posted a 195.050 and then recorded a 195.100 two years later. Furthermore, the Illini did score above a 49 in two events in 2011, scoring a 49.175 on vault and a 49.150 on floor. Therefore, Illinois looks to make it to the Super Six round for the first time in program history.

Finally, Allison Buckley and Melissa Fernandez have repped the Illini well at NCAA's, winning a combined seven all-american awards between the two of them from 2008-11. 


The NACGC/W announced their first ever regular-season All-American honors right before Regionals with University of Illinois senior gymnast Alina Weinstein picking up two awards. The New Jersey Native was named First Team All-American on floor and Second Team All-American in the all-around. Then, following the  conclusion of the Morgantown Regional, the NCAA named Weinstein Regional Gymnast of the Year. The senior is just the second Illini to be bestowed with this honor, following in Allison Buckley's footsteps in 2008.


The Orange and Blue recorded a 196.025 in their second place showing, fueled by a season defining beam score of 49.175 on their last rotation. The Illini finished behind fellow nationals qualifier and top scorer Michigan (196.725) and edged out Nebraska (195.875). The Illini were powered by Alina Weinstein who became the first Illini to win three regionals crowns at a single NCAA meet, now boasting five total in her career. Also to note, in her first collegiate regionals competition, freshman Giana O'Connor made the all-around podium tying for sixth place with a 39.175. Finally, the team's 196.025 is the second highest score recorded by the Illini at an NCAA regional, behind the 2009 squad's 196.7.


The Illini put together their best overall performance at the Big Ten Championships on March 23 as they scored a season high 196.475 and won the first session and took fourth overall. It was the first time this season the Orange and Blue tallied a 49 or higher on all four events. It also marked the second highest score posted by the Illini at the Big Ten Championships and sixth highest score tallied in school history. Alina Weinstein and Amber See finished in a four-way tie for second place on floor, scoring a 9.950. Furthermore, Weinstein finished in fifth place in the all-around with a 39.450. 

At the conclusion of the meet, the conference named the 2013 All-Championship Team, which consisted of the top three finishers in every event, and top three all-around finishes as well, based on scores from both sessions. Thus, Alina Weinstein and Amber See were bestowed with this honor. 


Weinstein achieved her first career First Team All-Big Ten accolade. The senior has undoubtedly saved her best season for last, breaking the Illinois records on floor (9.975), vault (10.0) and the all-around (39.625). In addition, her perfect 10 was just the second in Illini history. Weinstein also ranks 11th in the country in the all-around and more impressively, fourth on floor. 

Amber See grabbed her second straight second team All-Big Ten laurel. The junior's best event this season is floor where she is ranked 20th in the country with a RQS of 9.905. At the last home meet on March 10, See became one of seven gymnasts at Illinois to score a 9.950 on floor, which set a new career high for the Minnetonka, Minn. native. Then, See accomplished the feat again, but this time on the Big Ten Championships stage. Speaking of new career highs, See also established a new mark in the all-around this season with a 39.325. 

Next up are first time winners in sophomore Sunny Kato and freshman Giana O'Connor. Kato, who is in her first year of competition for the Illini, has been instrumental for the Orange and Blue on bars and beam. The Chino Hills, Calif. native has set career highs of 9.9 on both events while also earning two individual titles on both as well. Furthermore, her four overall titles stands as the second most on the team. 

O'Connor has been a constant all-around force for the Illini in 2013. The freshman has scored above a 39 in the previous seven meets, including setting a new career high of 39.275. The Streamwood, Ill. native has also been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice, thus joining teammate Amber See as the only Illini to capture the freshman of the week honor twice in a season. Giana currently ranks 37th in the nation in the all-around.


On March 16, at the State of Illinois Classic, Alina Weinstein accomplished a feat that had only been done once before in Illini women's gymnastics history. The senior scored a perfect 10, the first since Cara Pomeroy achieved the mark in 2004 on the uneven bars. It was the third perfect 10 on vault in all of NCAA Division-I this year and the seventh overall including all events. In the process, Weinstein broke the Illinois vault record set by Marijka Botterman (9.95) in 2009. 


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.  However, the New Jersey native wasn't done there. In the last meet of the regular season on March 16, Weinstein once again set a new mark, this time scoring a 39.625. Weinstein started on bars where she tied her season high of 9.900. Next, Weinstein moved to beam where she tallied a 9.800. Then, the Illinois floor record holder posted a 9.925 before ending the day perfect 10.0 on vault.


In 2013, the Big Ten office has named Alina Weinstein Big Ten Gymnast of the Week a total of three times. Thus, the senior became the first Illini to secure three Big Ten Gymnast of the Week awards in the same season and just the second to capture four in her career, alongside 2011 alum Allison Buckley. Weinstein was also the first Illini gymnast to win the award in consecutive weeks, accomplishing the feat on Feb. 11 and then on Feb. 18. 


On Senior Day on March 10, the Illini posted a season high on floor and the fourth highest team score in school history in the event with a 49.425. Jordan Naleway (9.800), Tori Fujinami (9.800), Giana O'Connor (9.850), Heather Foley (9.850), Amber See (9.950) and Alina Weinstein (9.975) all contributed to the team total. 


After adding three regional titles to her collection, Alina Weinstein now has 26 titles in 2013. That season total bumps the New Jersey native into second place on the Illinois single season event titles list, only behind Nancy Thies' 34 in `76. In addition, her 43 career titles puts the senior in sole possession of third place on the all-time Illinois title list. The top two spots belong to Nancy Thies with 58 titles and Allison Buckley with 62. 


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 instrumental for the Illini on bars and beam. 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. Then during the double meet weekend on March 8 & 10, Kato continued to shine earning another title on beam and bars while tying her career highs on both. Thus, her four overall titles stands as the second most on the team.  


Giana O'Connor has impressed many along the way in her freshman campaign. O'Connor has competed in the all-around in all 13 meets this season, scoring at least a 39.1 in the last six of seven. 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 and earned the Streamwood, Ill. native Big Ten Freshman of the Week. On the double meet weekend on March 8 & 10, O'Connor not only achieved a new career high in the all-around but also did it twice, scoring a 39.275 both times. As a result, O'Connor garnered her second Big Ten Freshman of the Week award. Therefore, she joins teammate Amber See as the only Illini to capture the freshman award twice in a season. O'Connor continues to be a force this postseason, posting a career high 9.9 on floor at Big Ten's. This year, she has also set career highs of 9.85 on vault, 9.825 on bars and 9.85 on beam. 


Jordan Naleway provided three solid scores for the Illini at the Big Ten Championships, recording her best meet to date. The sophomore started off by sticking her bars routine and recorded a new career high of 9.800. Next, Naleway moved to beam where she achieved yet another career high of 9.825. The performance was just the second beam routine by Naleway in her collegiate career. Naleway finished the day on floor where her 9.775 came close to tying her career high of 9.800.


Look for Elizabeth McNabb to contribute on beam this weekend. The junior has scored at least a 9.8 in five of the past seven meets. In fact, McNabb has tied her career high of 9.85 twice in that span, including at the Big Ten Championships where her beam score led the team. 


The Orange and Blue have not dropped below a 195.7 in their previous six meets, a stretch that saw the squad post two totals of 196.3 and a new season high of 196.475. Thus, Illinois has eclipsed the 196 mark six times this year, besting the 2011 NCAA Championships qualifying squad, who hit the 196 or above score three times. In fact, the 2013 squad has now tied the 2010 team who achieved the feat the most and has a chance to to set a new program mark at the NCAA Championships.