Alina Weinstein broke three program records, earned NCAA First Team All-American on Floor and was the owner of three regional crowns in 2013
May 13, 2013
2013 Illinois Gymnastics Season Wrap-Up
#11 Final National Ranking
3rd NCAA Championships Appearance
NCAA First Team All-American on Floor
NCAA Regional Beam, Floor, & All-Around Champion
2nd Place at NCAA Morgantown Regional
1st in Session, 4th Overall at Big Ten Championships
• Highest Finish at NCAA Championships: In their third NCAA Championships appearance in a five year span, the Fighting Illini tied their highest national ranking in school history, finishing No. 11. The ranking was based on the team’s score at Nationals where they posted a 195.7, beating out Stanford in the first of two sessions. Furthermore, the Orange and Blue ended the season in the top 25 for the eighth year in a row.
• NCAA First Team All-American on Floor: Senior Alina Weinstein picked up her second career All-American honor and her first First-Team distinction at the 2013 NCAA Championship Semifinals, as she tied for first place in Session 1 on floor with a 9.9. The New Jersey native is now the third ever Illini gymnast to garner multiple All-American awards, following in Allison Buckley’s and Melissa Fernandez’s footsteps. It also marked the 12th All-American honor in Illinois history. In addition, Weinstein became the fourth individual event finalist in program history and the first one to reach the NCAA floor finals.
• First Illini to Win Three Regional Titles: The Illini’s second place showing at the Morgantown Regional was fueled by Alina Weinstein’s historic day of becoming the first Illini to win three regional crowns at a single NCAA meet. Weinstein took the floor title with a 9.9 and tied for first on balance beam with yet another 9.9 along with Michigan’s Katie Zurales. The senior then completed the trifecta with an all-around title thanks to a score of 39.550. Lastly, Weinstein’s five career regional crowns puts her in second place all-time behind Nancy Thies’ seven.
• Four All-Big Ten Honorees: For the first time since the 2010 season, four Illini were named All-Big Ten Honorees. Weinstein achieved her first career First Team All-Big Ten accolade after ranking 11th in the country in the all-around and fourth on floor. Amber See grabbed her second straight second team All-Big Ten laurel, ranking 20th in the nation on floor. Next up were first time winners in sophomore Sunny Kato and freshman Giana O’Connor. Kato was instrumental for the Orange and Blue on bars and beam while O’Connor was a constant force in the all-around all season long.
• Weinstein Etches Name In Illini History Books: Alina Weinstein certainly saved her best season for last, rewriting the Illinois record books in three separate categories. Weinstein is now the all-around record holder with a 39.625, the floor record holder with a 9.975 and the vault record holder with a perfect 10.0.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS RECAP
In their third ever Nationals appearance, the Fighting Illini placed fifth in their session with a score of 195.7 and finished 11th overall in the country, tying a program best in the process. The 195.7 was the highest team total Illinois has ever recorded at the NCAA Championships. The Illini rotated in the Olympic order, thus starting the day on vault where the Orange and Blue tallied a 48.850. After a second rotation bye, Illinois moved to bars where they posted a 48.675. Beam was next for the Orange and Blue, as the squad posted a 48.975, 0.4 points higher than their previous NCAA’s best in 2009. Continuing their trend of besting former NCAA Championship Semifinal scores, the Illini scored a 49.2 on floor (previous high of 49.15 in 2011).
After falling on beam, Alina Weinstein displayed true fighting spirit when the senior rebounded with a first place 9.9 on floor, earning First-Team All-American distinction and advancing to the event finals for the first time in her career. Other key performers included Elizabeth McNabb who competed in three events for the first time since the 2012 Regional and tied for the team’s highest bars score; Sophomore Sunny Kato led on beam with a 9.85; Amber See posted three scores of 9.8 or higher; while freshman Giana O’Connor tied for 11th place in the all around with a 39.1. At the floor finals on Sunday, Alina Weinstein wrapped her season and her career with a 9.75 on floor, finishing in 12th place.
END OF THE SEASON ACCOLADES
Alina Weinstein was named one of the four finalists for the 2013 Honda Award for gymnastics, honoring the nation’s top gymnast. Therefore, Weinstein became the first Illini women’s gymnast to remain in the running for the coveted award. Since its inception in 1985, the Honda Sports Award acknowledges athletic achievement as well as scholastics and community involvement, and is given to female athletes in 12 different NCAA sanctioned sports throughout the year.
The NACGC/W announced their first ever regular-season All-American honors right before Regionals as senior Alina Weinstein picked 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 at the conclusion of the Morgantown Regional, the NCAA named Weinstein South Central Regional Gymnast of the Year. The senior is just the second Illini to be bestowed with this honor, following Allison Buckley in 2008.
ILLINI TAKE SECOND AT MORGANTOWN REGIONAL
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 Big Ten Champion 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. 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 second qualifying spot was up for grabs throughout the entire night in Morgantown, as it came down to the final routine in the final rotation. Nebraska once again excelled at their best event a.k.a. vault, quickly tallying a 49.650, forcing the Illini to score greater than a 49.025 on balance beam. Unfazed by the pressure, the trio of Amber See, Elizabeth McNabb and Sarah Fiedler all accomplished 9.8’s. Sophomore Sunny Kato then followed with a 9.875. Then the veteran Alina Weinstein booked the trip to Los Angeles with her third 9.9 of the night. Furthermore, the Illini’s 49.175 on beam was the highest score on the apparatus all day.
TEAM SOARS HIGH AT BIG TEN’S
The Illini assembled their best overall performance of 2013 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.
The Orange and Blue started on bars where they tallied a 49.025 and Jordan Naleway recorded a new career high of 9.8. Illinois moved to beam next where they continued to stick their routines to score a 49.100. Junior Elizabeth McNabb led the squad with a 9.85 which tied her career high. Jordan Naleway continued her breakthrough day by setting yet another career high, this time a 9.825 in just her second beam performance of her career. Next, the Orange and Blue achieved a 49.325 on floor, as Giana O’Connor set a career high of 9.9. The Illini finished the day on vault where they posted a 49.025. Heather Foley set the tone here by scoring a 9.85, 0.075 higher than her previous best mark in the event.
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.
CRACKING THE PERFECT VAULT
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 on vault, the first since Cara Pomeroy achieved the mark in 2004 on the uneven bars. In the process, Weinstein broke the Illinois vault record set by Marijka Botterman (9.95) in 2009. Weinstein’s perfect vault was one of six in 2013 as the perfect 10 was one of 11 amongst all events.
HISTORY MAKING PERFORMANCE
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, then moved to beam where she tallied a 9.800. Then, the Illinois floor record holder posted a 9.925 before ending the day with a perfect 10.0 on vault.
THIRD TIME’S A CHARM FOR BIG TEN GYMNAST OF THE WEEK
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.
LEAVING IT ALL ON THE FLOOR
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.
Alina Weinstein finished the 2013 season with 26 individual titles. That season total bumped 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 cemented 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.
Sunny Kato, who experienced a season ending injury a year ago, competed in her first season for the Illini and was instrumental to the squad 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 stand as the second most on the team in 2013.
Giana O’Connor impressed many along the way in her freshman campaign. O’Connor competed in the all-around in all 14 meets this season, scoring at least a 39.1 in the last seven of eight, including an 11th place all around finish at the NCAA Championship Semifinals. 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. In her first season, O’Connor set career highs of 9.85 on vault, 9.825 on bars and 9.85 on beam and 9.9 on floor.
NALE-ING THE ROUTINE
Jordan Naleway provided a solid and consistent post-season for the Orange and Blue. At Big Ten’s, the sophomore set a new career high of 9.8 on bars and a new high of 9.825 on beam in just her second performance on the apparatus in her collegiate career. Naleway also competed on floor, marking just the second time the sophomore performed in three events. At NCAA’s, Naleway continued to deliver, tying her career high of 9.8 on floor.
Elizabeth McNabb surged down the final stretch on balance beam, producing at least a 9.8 in five of the last eight meets. In fact, McNabb tied her career high of 9.85 three times in that span, including at the Big Ten Championships where her beam score led the team. The junior, who was a last minute addition to the bars lineup at NCAA’s, scored a team high 9.75. It was her first bars performance since the 2012 Regional.
FINDING THE MARK
Illinois did not drop below a 195.7 in their last seven meets of the season, a stretch that saw the squad post two totals of 196.3 and a season high of 196.475. The Illini also eclipsed the 196 mark six times this year, besting the 2011 squad who hit the 196 or above score three times and tied the 2010 team who had previously achieved the feat the most.
A MUST SEE
Amber See achieved new personal bests in her junior campaign with her best event this past season being floor where she ranked 20th in the country. At the last home meet on March 10, See became one of eight 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.
ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
The Orange and Blue finished the season ranked 11th in the nation, tying a program best set by the last Nationals qualifying squad in 2011. Therefore, the Illini ended the season in the top-25 for the eighth consecutive year. At the conclusion of the regular season, Illinois had a RQS over 49 in three out of four events, as all three ranked in the top-20. The Illini ranked 20th in bars (49.085) and 13th in both balance beam (49.125) and floor (49.235). Individually, Alina Weinstein ranked fourth in the country on floor, 11th in the all around and 35th on both vault and bars. Finally, Amber See ranked 20th on floor, Giana O’Connor 37th in the all-around and Sunny Kato 42nd on bars.
ILLINI EARN SEVEN ACADEMIC ALL-BIG TEN SELECTIONS
Seven Illini from the women’s gymnastics squad were named to the Academic All-Big Ten team. To be eligible for Academic All-Big Ten selection, student-athletes must be letterwinners who are in at least their second academic year at their institution and carry a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher.
The Illini honored were seniors Jaclyn Kantecki (Psychology) and Alina Weinstein (Communications), juniors Sarah Fiedler (Accountancy), Elizabeth McNabb (Community Health), and Amber See (Broadcast Journalism), and sophomores Sunny Kato (Communications) and Jordan Naleway (Education).