Allison Buckley will compete at the NCAA Championships in Thursday's afternoon session at 1 p.m. ET
April 22, 2008
April 24-26, 2008 // Stegeman Coliseum // Athens, Ga. // Hosted by the University of Georgia
Buckley, Cowart Earn National Bids
Freshman Allison Buckley and sophomore Nicole Cowart will head to the NCAA Gymnastics Championships this weekend in Athens, Ga. They are the first Illini qualifiers since Cara Pomeroy and Ashley Williams back in 2004. Buckley and Cowart will both be competing in the all-around competition after each scored a 39.100 at the South Central Regional to tie for third place. They earned a national bid by finishing as the top-2 all-around competitors on non-qualifying teams.
The Championships, which kick-off Thursday, April 24, are being hosted at Stegeman Coliseum on the University of Georgia campus. Buckley will compete in Session 1 (1 p.m. ET), starting on beam and rotating with Alabama, while Cowart will compete in Session 2 (7 p.m ET), starting on vault and rotating with Denver. The top three teams from each Thursday session will advance to the Super Six team finals on Friday, April 25 (6 p.m. ET) and the top four individuals on each event from Thursday's competition will move onto Saturday's event finals (6 p.m. ET). The individual all-around crown will be decided on Thursday by combining the the scores from the two sessions.
Wednesday, April 23 - Practice Sessions
11 a.m. (ET) - Practice Session I (Buckley)
1 p.m. (ET) - Practice Session II
3 p.m. (ET) - Practice Session III
4:20 p.m. (ET) - Practice Session IV (Cowart)
Thursday, April 24 - Team Preliminaries and All-Around Finals
1 p.m. (ET) - Session I - Oklahoma, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, LSU, Oregon State (Buckley)
7 p.m. (ET) - Session II - Denver, Utah, UCLA, Georgia, Michigan, Stanford (Cowart)
Friday, April 25 - Super Six Team Final - 6 p.m. (ET)
* Top three teams from each of Thursday's sessions
Saturday, April 26 - Individual Events Finals - 6 p.m. (ET)
** Top four individuals on each event (plus ties) from each of Thursday's sessions
CBS to Televise Championships
The 2008 NCAA Gymnastics Championships will be broadcast by CBS on a tape delay basis. The broadcast is set to air Saturday, May 10 from 3-5:00 p.m. (ET). The CBS talent will be Tim Brando and Amanda Borden.
Buckley to Rotate with Alabama; Cowart with Denver
In a random draw conducted by the NCAA, Buckley will be rotating with Alabama in Session I and Cowart will be rotating with Denver in Session II. The Crimson Tide will begin their competition on beam and finish on bars, while the Pioneers will rotate in Olympic order, starting on vault and ending on floor exercise. For the complete rotation orders for both of Thursday's sessions click the link at the top of the page.
Illinois at the National Championships
The Illini have never qualified as a team and Buckley and Cowart are just the sixth and seventh Illini to qualify individually since the NCAA began sponsoring the event in 1982. The last individual qualifiers for the Illini were Cara Pomeroy and Ashley Williams in 2004. Prior to 1982, when nationals were sponsored by the AIAW, UI had five individuals compete at the national meet, including 1972 Olympian Nancy Thies, who finished sixth on the uneven bars in 1976 to become the only women's gymnastics All-American in Illinois history.
Buckley Racks up Postseason Honors: Freshman Allison Buckley became the second Illini in school history to be named the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year and the first Illini to be named the South Central Regional Gymnast of the Year. In addition, Buckley was also honored as a first team All-Big Ten selection.
Crall Wins Big Ten Title: Junior Julie Crall won the 2008 Big Ten Balance Beam title with a career-high tying 9.900 to give the Illini an individual Big Ten champion for the second consecutive season. Former Illini Cara Pomeroy won the 2007 Big Ten Uneven Bars title.
Making Noise in the Postseason: As a team, the Illini took second place at the Big Ten Championships, the highest finish in the conference meet since winning the competition in 1990. The Illini then took third place at the NCAA South Central Regional, the highest regional finish in program history, narrowly missing advancing as a team to the NCAA Championships for the first time.
Kruse Named Regional Assistant Coach of the Year
Illinois assistant coach Amy Kruse became the third member of the coaching staff to be named Regional Assistant Coach of the Year. Fellow assistant Kim Landrus won the honor back in 2005 and current head coach Bob Starkell received the accolade in 1998.
Illini Finish Third at the South Central Regional
The Illini came away with its best-ever regional finish of third place by posting a team total of 195.425 at the 2008 South Central Regional Championship in Norman, Okla. The Illini were led by freshman Allison Buckley and sophomore Nicole Cowart, who each scored a 39.100 to tie for third and earn individual bids in the all-around competition to the NCAA Championship in Athens, Ga. Buckley also finished in a tie for fifth on floor with a 9.850, while sophomore Sarah Schmidt received a spot on the podium for her 9.850 on bars to tie for third place. In the team race, No. 4 Alabama (197.300) took the regional crown and No. 10 Oklahoma (195.875) edged the Illini (195.425) for the second spot and a coveted trip to the National Collegiate Championships. Boise State (194.400), Southeast Missouri State (193.850) and Arizona State 193.200 rounded out the six-team field. Following the meet, Buckley became the first Illini to be named Regional Gymnast of the Year.
Illini Take Second at Big Tens
Illinois is coming off a second place finish at the 2008 Big Ten Championships two weeks ago in Ann Arbor, Mich., its highest finish since winning the competition in 1990. The Illini scored a 195.750, their top score of the season and sixth best score in school history, to finish behind No. 4 Michigan (196.750) and just ahead of No. 23 Penn State (195.625). No. 17 Michigan State finished fourth (195.050) and was followed by No. 22 Iowa in fifth (194.775), No. 25 Minnesota in sixth (194.425) and Ohio State in seventh (194.075). In addition to the team success, Julie Crall won the balance beam title with a career-high tying 9.990 and Allison Buckley was just behind with a 9.875 to tie for second, leading the Illini to a season-high team score of 49.050 on the event. Sarah Schmidt garnered a third place tie on the uneven bars with a career-high tying 9.900, while Buckley and Lindsey Smith finished in a four way tie for fourth place on vault with 9.850s, to lead the team to the third best score in program history on the event.
Freshman Allison Buckley is ranked 21st in the nation on floor exercise (9.885), 28th in the all-around (39.270), 36th on beam (9.865) and 46th on vault (9.860). Junior Julie Crall is ranked 15th on beam (9.875), sophomore Nicole Cowart is ranked 74th in the all-around (38.865) and sophomore Sarah Schmidt comes in at 76th on bars (9.820). All rankings are as of the end of the regular season.
Buckley Bursts onto Scene
Freshman Allison Buckley has wasted no time establishing herself as one of the premier gymnasts in the Big Ten Conference and as one of the best freshmen in Illini history. The Schaumburg, Ill. native has been honored as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, a first team All-Big Ten selection and the South Central Regional Gymnast of the Year. She has competed in the all-around in every meet this year, capturing 19 individual titles (vault-4, bars-1, beam-2, floor-7, AA-5) which is the third-highest total in school history behind only former Olympian Nancy Thies' totals of 34 and 24 in 1976 and '77, respectively.
Buckley was named Big Ten Gymnast of the Week (March 19) after winning four individual titles at UIC (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.
Most recently at the South Central Regional, she finished in a tie for third in the all-around (39.100) and a tie for fifth on floor (9.850). She is currently ranked 21st in the nation on floor (9.885), 28th in the all-around (39.270), 36th on beam (9.865) and 46th on vault (9.860).
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 on March 15 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.
Illini In the Rankings
The Illini will finish the season ranked No. 15 in the GymInfo rankings that will become available following this weekends championships, the highest ranking ever for the Illini. This will mark the third consecutive year that the Illini will finish the season ranked in the top-25. Illinois concluded the 2007 season as the 20th-ranked team and the 2006 season at No. 25.
Six Gymnasts Named Academic All-Big Ten
Six Illinois gymnasts were named to the 2007-08 Academic All-Big Ten team. Marijka Botterman, Nicole Cowart, Julie Crall, Kim Kruk, Michelle McGrady and Lindsey Smith were all honored for having at least a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average and earning a varsity letter in gymnastics.