2014 Women's Gym Season Wrap-Up
May 29, 2014
2014 Illinois Gymnastics Season Wrap-Up
#11 Final National Ranking (ties program best)
First Ever Back to Back Trips to Nationals
School Record Holder for Team Total and Vault
NCAA Regional Bars and Beam Champion
2nd Place at NCAA Minneapolis Regional
4th Overall at Big Ten Championships
History Made at NCAA Championships: The Fighting Illini earned back to back trips to the NCAA Championships for the first time in school history, making their fourth appearance at Nationals in the past six years. Illinois recorded a 195.8 in Birmingham, its highest score ever in the NCAA semifinal session. As a result, the Orange and Blue tied the program's best finish and final national ranking of 11th. In addition, Illinois ended the season in the top 25 for the ninth year in a row.
A Historic Season: The 2014 Illini placed their name into the record book and rewrote history more than any other squad in school history. They set a new team total record and the program's first score above a 197 with a 197.1 at Gym Jam. Illinois placed five total scores on the all-time top-10 list, including three of the top-four. The Illini also set a new vault record by scoring a 49.425 at the State of Illinois Classic and once again posted three of the top-four scores all-time. Lastly, Illinois placed the following on the event top-10 list: six bar scores, five beam scores and the fourth best floor score.
Post-Season Notes: Illinois tallied its second highest score ever at the Big Ten Championships with a 196.625. The Illini also scored a season high 49.325 on floor, marking the second highest at Big Ten's and the fourth best all-time. Next, the Illini advanced to the NCAA Championships by scoring a 196.6 at the Minneapolis Regional. The Orange and Blue's 196.6 was the second highest score in school history at an NCAA regional meet, only behind the 2009 squad's 196.7. Illinois recorded a season high 49.4 on bars, which was the third highest on the event all-time. Sunny Kato won the bar regional title with a 9.925 while Sarah Fiedler claimed the beam title with a 9.9, becoming just the fifth and sixth different gymnasts in school history to accomplish the feat.
Four All-Big Ten Honorees: For the sixth straight year the Illini had at least three gymnasts claim All-Big Ten honors. Both Sunny Kato and Amber See garnered their first First-Team selections. At the conclusion of the regular season, See ranked fourth on floor and seventh on vault in the Big Ten while Kato ranked fifth on beam and third on bars. Furthermore, the duo combined for 21 of the squad's 38 individual titles. Next, Giana O'Connor collected her second straight Second-Team honors while freshman Erin Buchanan was tabbed with her first. O'Connor ranked eighth and 12th in the conference on floor and the all-around, respectively. Lastly, Buchanan ranked eighth on vault and 14th on floor.
See Wraps Successful Career: Senior Amber See certainly wrapped her Illini career on a high note. Her senior class was the first to ever compete at three NCAA Championships. See's 27 career titles ranks 10th on the all-time list. This season, the Minnesota native became the third ever Illinois gymnast to score a perfect 10, accomplishing the feat on vault. Furthermore, See and 2013 alum Alina Weinstein are the only two gymnasts in school history to score a 9.95 or higher three times on floor. Finally, See became the seventh Illini to collect at least three All-Big Ten selections in her career.
Immediate Impact: The freshman trio of Erin Buchanan, Emily Lennon and Mary Jane Horth made an immediate impact on the Illini lineup this year. Buchanan became the first Illini to win Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times. In fact, Buchanan and Lennon made history together when they became the first duo to both win the conference weekly award in the same season. Buchanan recorded a career high of 9.925 on both vault and floor and just barely missed out on Second-Team All-American status twice at the NCAA Championships. Lennon posted a career high of 9.9 on both vault and floor. Next, after battling back from injury and missing the first half of the season, Horth tallied career highs of 9.9 on bars, 9.85 on vault and a 9.875 on beam, while also leading the team on both bars and beam at the NCAA Championships.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS RECAP
Competing in semifinal session I at the NCAA Championships, the Illini recorded a 195.8. It marked the highest team total at Nationals in program history, besting the 2013 score of 195.7. Overall, Illinois accomplished an 11th place showing, tying its best finish at the NCAA Championships. Furthermore, the Illini's best event that day was floor, where they tied its NCAA Championships high with a 49.2. Illinois also scored over a 49 on vault (49.075), in which Erin Buchanan and Giana O'Connor tied for 10th with a 9.85, as the latter tied her career high.
Nationals was also a day in which the future shone bright, as freshmen Erin Buchanan, Mary Jane Horth and Emily Lennon produced solid debuts. In addition to her 10th place 9.85 vault, Buchanan also tied for 13th on floor with a 9.875, needing a 9.9 on either event to claim All-American status. Furthermore, Horth led the team on bars and beam with a 9.775 and 9.8, respectively. Lastly, Lennon contributed a 9.825 on vault, resulting in the freshmen trio scoring five of the 11 scores that were 9.8 or higher on the team.
The Illini punched its ticket to Birmingham on April 5 when they finished in second place at the Minneapolis Regional, scoring a 196.600. Illinois beat out fellow conference rival Minnesota, who finished in third with a 196.350. Just like last season's regional meet, Illinois once again produced a season defining event, this time on the uneven bars. The Orange and Blue recorded a season high 49.4 on bars, which was the highest of the day and the third highest in program history. In addition, two Illini walked out of Minneapolis as regional champions. Sunny Kato achieved a career high 9.925 on bars to earn the title as Sarah Fiedler tied her career high of 9.9 on beam to earn that respective title as well. The duo became the fifth and six regional champs in school history. Finally, the Illini's 196.6 was the second highest score in school history at an NCAA regional meet.
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS
On March 22, the Fighting Illini finished in fourth place overall at the Big Ten Championships after scoring a 196.625. It marked the program's second highest team total ever scored at Big Ten's. The Illini also posted a season high 49.325 on floor (fourth highest all-time) and recorded the highest beam score of the evening session with a 48.975. Sarah Fiedler and Mary Jane Horth delivered solid performances, as they both scored above a 9.8 on all three events they competed.
FOUR ALL-BIG TEN HONOREES
This year, the conference office named Sunny Kato and Amber See as First-Team selections and awarded Erin Buchanan and Giana O'Connor Second-Team honors. It marked the sixth straight year the Illini had at least three gymnasts claim All-Big Ten accolades.
Amber See garnered her third career All-Big Ten selection and first First-Team nod. See became the seventh member of the prestigious group of Illini gymnasts who received at least three all-conference awards (Denise Lamborn, Ashley Williams, Nicole Cowart, Cara Pomeroy, Allison Buckley and Kelsey Joannides). See was nationally ranked 33rd on vault (9.89) and 17th on floor (9.91), while ranking seventh and fourth, respectively, on those events in the Big Ten.
A Second-Team selection last season, Sunny Kato emerged with her first First-Team honor this season. Kato ranked 27th nationally on beam and tied for fifth in the conference with a RQS of 9.87. Kato also specialized on the uneven bars where the junior tied for 24th in the country and third in the Big Ten (9.895).
Giana O'Connor earned her second consecutive Second-Team accolade, after nationally being ranked in the top-50 on floor (9.885) and in the all-around (39.175). O'Connor tied her career high of 9.9 four times on floor this past season, including twice in the final five meets.
Erin Buchanan's solid first year donning the Orange and Blue was vindicated with a Second-Team selection. The freshman ranked 10th on vault in the Big Ten (T-44th nationally) with a 9.880 and 17th on floor with a 9.865.
Despite the cold winter, the Illini certainly heated up in the gym in the final stretch of the season. Heading into the NCAA Championships, Illinois scored a 197.100, 196.875, 196.625 and a 196.600, the best four meet stretch of the 2014 season. Thus, they averaged a 196.800 and scored a 49 or higher on 15 of the 16 events in that span. In addition, those four team scores all ranked on the all-time top-10 list.
ALL TIME SCHOOL RECORD HOLDER
On March 8, in front of over 2,000 fans inside Huff Hall, the 2014 Illini made history. The Orange and Blue broke the team total school record (196.975) set back in 2011 by scoring a 197.100 at Gym Jam vs. Lindenwood. First, the Illini recorded a 49.250 on vault, followed by a 49.375 on bars. Next, Illinois moved to beam where they recorded a 49.175 before ending the meet with a 49.300 on floor.
The 2014 Fighting Illini rewrote history more than any other season. The squad recorded five scores on the team total top-10 list, including the No. 1 (197.1), No. 3 (196.875), No. 4 (196.775), No. 8 (196.625) and No. 9 (196.600) spots on the list. On Feb. 21, the Orange and Blue recorded the highest vault score of all-time with a 49.425, topping the previous best of 49.375 set back in 2009. On bars, Illinois achieved the third (49.400), fourth (49.375), sixth (49.250) and seventh (49.225) best scores in program history. Furthermore, Illinois accomplished the third (49.300), fourth (49.275) and seventh (49.175) highest beam scores. Finally, on March 22 at the Big Ten Championships, the Illini cracked the top-four on floor with a season high 49.325.
Individually, Amber See cemented her legacy in her final season. See scored the third ever 10.0 on Feb. 21 and was the second to do so on vault, following in Alina Weinstein's footsteps. In addition, See excelled on floor, tying her career high of 9.95 on Feb. 23. Thus, See and Weinstein are the only two gymnasts to record three scores of 9.95 or higher on floor exercise in their career.
Freshman Erin Buchanan and junior Sunny Kato made their way onto the top performances list as well. Buchanan tallied the third highest vault score in school history with a 9.925 while Kato recorded the fourth best bars and second best beam scores with a career high 9.925 on both.
SURPASSING THE 196 // 9.9
Surpassing a 196 at a meet has always been a solid indicator of consistency for the Illini. After 14 meets in 2014, Illinois surpassed the benchmark eight times, setting a new team record by surpassing both the 2010 and 2013 squads who hit a 196 or higher just six times.
Illinois received several tremendous performances from its gymnasts this past season, as they collectively scored a 9.9 or higher 36 times. Diving deeper, the Illini recorded seven 9.925's, one 9.95 and one perfect 10. Freshmen Erin Buchanan, Mary Jane Horth and Emily Lennon contributed a combined seven scores of 9.9 or higher. Sarah Fiedler recorded a career high 9.9 on beam twice this year while fellow senior Liz McNabb recorded a career high 9.9 on beam on Jan. 31. Giana O'Connor accomplished a career high of 9.9 on beam on Feb. 23 and tied her career high of 9.9 on floor four times. Sunny Kato led the Illini on bars and beam, scoring a 9.9 or higher a total of eight times on both events. However, Amber See led Illinois with 13 total times in which she hit the mark. See achieved the feat five times on vault and an impressive eight times on floor.
BIG TEN WEEKLY HONORS
As the 2014 regular season came to a close, senior Amber See picked up her second Big Ten Event Specialist of the Week award on March 17. The Minnesota native earned her fourth career weekly honor after tying for first (9.9) on vault, finishing in second on floor (9.925) and tying her career high on beam (9.85), all at the Big Ten Quad Meet.
On Feb. 24, the Illini picked up multiple Big Ten weekly honors in the same week for the first time in school history. After the double-header weekend, Amber See won Big Ten Event Specialist while Erin Buchanan won Big Ten Freshman of the Week. See earned the award after she scored a perfect 10 at the Illinois Classic and tied her career high of 9.950 on floor vs. Ohio State/Central Michigan.
Buchanan earned her third freshman of the week award after she finished in the top-five on floor and vault in both meets, including a 9.900 on the latter. Buchanan previously won on Feb. 3 when she scored a 9.875 on both vault and floor in the win over Iowa, and again on Jan. 20 after setting a career high of 9.925 on floor. The Virginia native became the first Illini gymnast to win Freshman of the Week three times in a season.
On Feb. 17 the conference office delivered Emily Lennon her first collegiate award in the form of Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Lennon scored a 9.825 on vault and set a new career best of 9.900 on beam at Penn State. As a result, Buchanan and Lennon made history, becoming the first Illinois duo to both win Freshman of the Week in the same season.
`SEE'ING A PERFECT SCORE
On Feb. 21, Amber See forever etched her name in Illinois history when she scored the program's third ever perfect 10. The senior accomplished the impressive feat on vault, tying the program record set by Alina Weinstein just last season. The first ever Illinois 10.0 came from Cara Pomeroy on bars in 2004. See was the ninth gymnast to score a 10.0 at that point in the season in all of NCAA Division I gymnastics. In the end, See was one of six gymnasts to earn perfection on vault in 2014.
The balance beam most definitely stood as the team's signature event this season, as the Illini finished ranked ninth in the country with a RQS of 49.175. The Illini scored over a 49 on beam in four of the last seven meets, including its season high 49.300, which ranked as the third best score all-time in school history. Furthermore, Illinois scored 49 or higher eight times on beam this season, surpassing the amount set by last year's squad. Last but not least, the Illini ranked first on beam in the Big Ten conference.
Sunny Kato, Liz McNabb, Emily Lennon and Sarah Fiedler have combined to win 10 individual titles for the Orange and Blue this year on beam. Kato currently holds the most with five, most recently winning vs. Lindenwood on March 8. Liz McNabb follows right behind with three. Lennon won her lone title at Penn State on Feb. 15. Meanwhile, Fiedler just earned the Minneapolis Regional beam title.
The Illini's highest RQS (49.240) was found on floor exercise where they tied for 13th in the country. Illinois scored higher than a 49 in 12 of its 14 meets, including its final nine. Furthermore, Illinois posted five scores of 49.250 or higher, including a season high of 49.325 set on March 22. Illinois also had three gymnasts all ranked in the top-65 in the country, including Amber See's No. 17 ranking on the event.
The Illini garnered six total individual titles on floor this season. See led the pack with four, tying her career high of 9.95 on Feb. 23. Erin Buchanan won her lone title when she scored a career high 9.925 back on Jan. 18. Finally, Giana O'Connor won her first career floor title at Penn State on Feb. 15 when she tied her career high of 9.900.
SUNNY SHINES BRIGHT
The Illini bars and beam specialist Sunny Kato recorded a stellar junior campaign for the Orange and Blue. Despite competing in just two events, Kato led the team with 11 individual titles, with six on bars and five on beam. In fact, Kato almost tripled the amount of individual titles she won from a year ago.
In addition, after hitting a 9.9 on bars five times this season, Kato set a new career mark of 9.925 to earn the Minneapolis Regional bars title. The California native hit at least a 9.875 on the event in four of the final five meets. Kato also got over the 9.9 hump on beam as well, recording a career high 9.925 on March 8 vs. Lindenwood. Kato averaged a 9.796 on beam and only dropped below a 9.8 just three times this past season.
BREATH OF `FRESH' AIR
Freshmen Erin Buchanan, Emily Lennon and Mary Jane Horth were a big reason for the squad's success in 2014. The trio made quite the debut at Nationals when they combined for five of the team's 11 scores that were 9.8 or higher.
Buchanan was the very definition of consistency, not dropping below a 9.825 all season on floor and in the final 11 meets on vault. The Virginia native hit 28-of-28 routines and posted a career high of 9.925 on both vault and floor. Lastly, Buchanan won one floor and three vault titles before leading the squad on vault (9.85) and floor (9.875) at the NCAA Championships.
Lennon steadily improved her vault throughout the year. The freshman hit a 9.825 or higher in six of her last eight meets, including a career high 9.900 on Feb. 21. Lennon also found success on the balance beam, where she recorded scores of 9.800 or higher six times out of 10 attempts. Lennon's career high of 9.900 on beam resulted in her first and sole individual title of the season. The Calgary native hit 19-of-23 routines.
Finally, Horth battled back from injury and worked her way into the lineup on Feb. 21, competing in the final eight meets. Horth tallied a career best 9.9 on bars, 9.85 on vault and a 9.875 on beam. Horth answered the call in the postseason, competing in three events all along the way. In fact, Horth led the squad on bars (9.775) and beam (9.8) at the NCAA Championships.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
The old motto of `lead by example' definitely held true for the 2014 edition of the Fighting Illini. Seniors Amber See, Elizabeth McNabb and Sarah Fiedler all saved their best seasons for last, with both See and Fiedler seeing some action in the all-around at certain points of the season.
See obtained her lone all-around title of the year vs. Iowa on Jan. 31 with a 39.325. See also recorded a career high of 39.350 at Minnesota on Jan. 25. See won three straight vault titles to start the season before picking up her fourth on Feb. 21 (perfect 10) and her fifth on March 15. See has also won four floor titles and scored a 9.9 or higher in eight of the 14 meets.
Fiedler tied for 42nd in the nation and ranked 13th in the Big Ten in the all-around with a RQS of 39.150. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native set a new personal best of 39.325 on March 8 and only dropped below a 39 just twice in her entire career. Fiedler either tied or set new career highs in every event this year, reaching a 9.8 on vault, 9.875 on bars, 9.9 on beam and a 9.85 on floor.
McNabb certainly broke out in her final year. The senior, who entered the season with two beam titles, won three titles on the apparatus this year. Against Iowa on Jan. 31, McNabb recorded a career high 9.900 on beam and scored at least a 9.8 in nine of her 14 meets. McNabb was also a solid contributor to the bars lineup. After tallying a 9.825 five times this season, McNabb set a new personal best of 9.875 on bars at the Minneapolis Regional.
HOME SWEET HUFF
The Illini found great success at home in 2014. On Jan. 18, the Orange and Blue took first place in its tri-meet vs. Centenary and Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a 196.175 before tallying a 196.475 in its win over Iowa on Jan. 31. The Orange and Blue then achieved a 196.775 in its tri-meet victory over Ohio State and Central Michigan. Next, Illinois broke the program record in the home finale with a 197.1. Thus, the Illini averaged a 196.42 over five home meets inside Huff Hall this season.
IT'S ALL ACADEMIC
Exactly seven Illini gymnasts were named Academic All-Big Ten for the fourth consecutive year. 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 who were honored include seniors Sarah Fiedler (Accountancy), Elizabeth McNabb (Community Health) and Amber See (Broadcast Journalism), juniors Sunny Kato (Communications) and Jordan Naleway (Social Work) and sophomores Heather Foley (Communications) and Giana O'Connor (Recreation, Sport, and Tourism).
ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
The Illini finished the regular season ranked 11th in the country and then tied its highest national ranking finish of 11th after placing so at the NCAA Championships. Illinois produced a top-20 ranking on every event and had at least a RQS of 49.155 on each as well. They ranked 19th on vault, 13th on bars and floor and ninth on beam.
Amber See boasted the highest individual ranking amongst Illini gymnasts, closing the regular season No. 17 on floor exercise. The senior's RQS of 9.910 ranked fifth in the Big Ten. See also excelled on vault, where she tied for 33rd in the country. Sunny Kato led the squad on bars and beam, where she ranked 24th and 27th, respectively. The junior's bars RQS of 9.895 was fourth in the conference while her beam RQS of 9.87 was tied for sixth in the Big Ten. Giana O'Connor's surge at the end of the regular season boosted the sophomore to two top-50 rankings. O'Connor scored a 39.1 or higher in four of the last five meets. As a result, the Streamwood, Ill., native tied for 45th in the country in the all-around with a 39.175 RQS, which also led all Illini gymnasts. Lastly, O'Connor's best event was floor exercise where the sophomore tied for 42nd with a 9.885 RQS.