Recruiting Breakdown: Fighting Illini Add Six New Faces For 2018

Amanda Wijangco
Illinois is coming off a season where the Fighting Illini finished fourth at the Champaign regional. The squad had a good meet on both uneven bars and balance beam, but couldn't break the 9.850 mark on either floor or vault. Illinois will have a new face at the helm with Nadalie Walsh taking over for Kim Landrus. Former U.S. elite and NCAA star Ashley Priess-Johnston was hired this summer as an assistant. Lizzy Leduc had a stellar sophomore season and finished the season ranked in the top-25 on both beam and floor.

Outgoing: Erin Buchanan, Mary Jane Horth, Sarah Lyons

The Fighting Illini lose a total of eight routines--three from Buchanan (vault, uneven bars and floor exercise), three from Horth (vault, uneven bars and balance beam) and two from Lyons (vault and uneven bars). Buchanan scored better than a 9.800 nine times on floor exercise and was a strong contributor throughout the season. Lyons scored a 9.775 or better on all 13 uneven bars routines. Horth posted a 9.800 or better in 11 of 13 uneven bars routines, which included a season-best 9.950 on March 11 at the Big Five competition.

Incoming: Nicole Biondi, Grace Gough, Kylie Noonan, Rachel Borden, Kasey Meeks, Tessa Phillips

Nicole Biondi

Townsend, Massachusetts
Trains at 10.0 Academy of Gymnastics

Biondi was a four-time JO national championship qualifier. She was the 2016 JO national champion on uneven bars where she also finished fifth in the all-around and on both vault and floor exercise. She was the 2017 Massachusetts state champion in the all-around and on vault, balance beam and floor exercise. She finished sixth on uneven bars. Biondi swept the Region 6 championship titles when she won the all-around and all four event titles in 2016. She was the Massachusetts state champion on vault and floor and picked up silver in the all-around at the 2016 state championships.

Video courtesy of USA Gymnastics

Impact event(s): All-around

Grace Gough

Indianapolis, Indiana
Trains at Jaycie Phelps Athletics Center

Gough was a two-time JO national championship qualifier. She tied for 16th on vault and floor in 2016 and on uneven bars in 2014. She earned bronze in the all-around and on bars and floor at the 2016 Region 5 championships. She finished seventh in the all-around, picked up fifth on vault and took bronze on floor at regionals in 2015. Gough won silver on floor exercise at the 2014 Indiana state championships. She earned fifth in the all-around and on vault while picking up sixth on both bars and beam.

Video courtesy of Region 5 Gymnastics Insider

Impact event(s): Balance beam and floor exercise

Kylie Noonan

Vadnais Heights, Minnesota
Trains at Midwest Gymnastics

Noonan competed at the JO national championships in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016. She was the 2016 JO national champion on balance beam and also earned seventh on floor. She was the Region 4 balance beam champion in 2016 where she grabbed silver on floor and bronze on vault, bars and in the all-around. She finished fourth in the all-around and on balance beam at the Minnesota state championships in 2016. Noonan was the 2014 regional champion on floor exercise.

Video courtesy of USA Gymnastics

Impact event(s): Floor exercise and vault

Rachel Borden

Illinois
Trains at Legacy Elite
Coached by Jiani Wu and Yuejiu Li

Borden has competed at the Region 5 championships in each of the last five seasons. She tied for 16th on uneven bars at the 2017 JO national championships. She earned bronze on balance beam at the 2017 regional championships where she also finished sixth in the all-around and seventh on bars. She was a bronze medalist on bars, floor and in the all-around and the Illinois state champion on balance beam in 2016. She was the Region 5 champion on beam in 2015 and the JO NIT beam champion in 2014. Borden finished fifth in the all-around at the 2014 Illinois state championships in 2014 where she also earned silver on beam and bronze on bars.

Video courtesy of Region 5 Gymnastics Insider

Impact event(s): Balance beam

Kasey Meeks

Shawnee, Kansas
Trains at Pinnacle Gymnastics
Coached by Morgan Kuchynka and Hannah Thomas

Meeks finished eighth on vault at the Region 3 championships in 2017. She was the Kansas state champion in the all-around and on floor and vault in 2017. She finished fourth on both bars and beam. The Kansas native earned silver on floor exercise at the Kansas state championships in 2015 and finished 13th on vault at regionals that same year.

Impact event(s): Vault and floor exercise

Tessa Phillips

Lagrange, Ohio
Trains at Gymnastics World
Coached by Doug Miller, Caroline and Jared Nunn, Joan Ganim and Bob Wood

Phillips tied for seventh on floor exercise at the 2016 JO national championships. She earned silver on floor at the Region 5 championships. She was the 2016 Ohio state champion on floor exercise and in the all-around where she also took silver on beam, fourth on vault and fifth on uneven bars. She was the state champion on balance beam in 2015. Phillips earned fifth in the all-around and seventh on both vault and bars at the state championships in 2015.

Video courtesy of Region 5 Gymnastics Insider

Impact event(s): Floor exercise and balance beam

Event Finals Qualifiers - 2018 Junior Pan American Championships

Christy Ann Linder

Below are the gymnasts who qualified for the individual event finals at the 2018 Junior Pan American Championships, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The finals will be held Friday, June 15. The top eight gymnasts on each event, with a maximum of two gymnasts per country, qualify for event finals. 

USA, Bowers Strike Gold At 2018 Junior Pan Am Championships

USA Gymnastics

Press release below via USA Gymnastics:

2019 Nastia Liukin Cup Series Qualifying Meets Announced

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Press release below via USA Gymnastics:

Wong, Bowers Lead Top USA Junior Women In The 2018 Pan American Champs

Christy Ann Linder

The 2018 Junior Pan American Championships takes place this week, with competition starting on June 13 and concluding on June 15 in Buenos Aires. The event includes a team final, all-around final, and event finals for both the men and women. Team USA is sending top juniors Jordan Bowers, JaFree Scott, Tori Tatum, and Leanne Wong. 

Team USA Set For Junior Pan American Championships

Team USA is set to compete at the Junior Pan American Championships this week in Buenos Aires. The men's and women's competition will be held June 13-15 and consists of a team competition as well as individual all-around and event competitions.

A New Mentality For Kyla Ross In UCLA's Title-Winning Season

Kyla Ross has competed on some of the biggest stages in elite gymnastics—the Olympic Games in London, the World Championships in Belgium and China. She was a two-time world all-around medalist and was the silver medalist at back-to-back national championships.

Opinion: The Engaged, Strategic Leadership That USA Gymnastics Needs

© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

For over a year now, USA Gymnastics has been operating in a state of turmoil from the backlash of Larry Nassar’s horrific crimes. What started as the largest sex abuse scandal in sports history has evolved to show major flaws in the way that the national governing body for gymnastics is run. They have been through a wave of resignations at the highest levels: the president of USAG, the national team coordinator, and the senior vice president of the Women’s Program, to name a few. 

Utah To Host 2018 American Classic And Hopes Classic

Press release below via USA Gymnastics.

More Difficulty Leads To Consistency For Nebraska's Sienna Crouse

Nebraska Athletics

Sienna Crouse’s favorite event is vault.

Most Difficulty In The 2018 NCAA Super Six: Vault Edition

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

In our fourth and final installment on the most difficulty in the 2018 NCAA Super Six, we are taking a look at vault. Specifically, we're analyzing which teams had the most 10.0 start value vaults. In 2016, the Yurchenko full was devalued to a 9.95 start value, and many teams since then have reacted by upping the difficulty of the vaults their gymnasts compete. We have seen more Yurchenko 1.5s and even Yurchenko doubles.