Illinois Gymnastics Is Going For A New Attendance Record

The Illinois women’s gymnastics team always has a big crowd to cheer them on at home meets, but on Friday, Feb. 8, the team wants to break the historic 2,478-person attendance record. The team competes in Huff Hall and wants to “Stuff Huff” to break the record as it faces Michigan State at home at 7 p.m. CT.

“We love getting as many fans as we can to support the team and watch all of us do what we do best, flip and stick,” said Illini freshman Torie Stotz. “It is really important to us to get people to cheer and shout at our meets to help us compete better and win for the team and university.” 

“I think that this meet is super important to have a record breaking crowd because we are going up against another Big Ten team,” added junior Rae Balthazor, “and to have a large crowd that supports us and is invested in our team screaming I-N-I ever time we chant I-L-L is really what season is all about.” 

The team is heating up already this year, with a recent win on Jan. 19 over Big Ten foe Maryland. Illinois almost won all five individual event titles, with Karen Howell taking first all-around with a 39.125, Balthazor snagging gold on vault, Mary Jane Otto on bars and Kylie Noonan winning floor. 

“Our team culture is all about the freedom that we have in sport and pure happiness every time we step into the gym for practice or step out onto the competition floor,” Balthazor said. “To know that there are 18 other girls that care about my well-being inside and outside of the gym is an incredible feeling … I am so grateful that our coach Nadalie [Walsh] has brought this lightness of heart in a sport that can sometimes be very stressful.”

“We have some very talented athletes with great routines,” said Illini head coach Walsh. “I am confident they are going to be rewarded with great scores over the next few meets. As the team keeps taking steps forward in putting all four events together during competition, I believe we will all see Illinois continue to get better each week, and I know they are going to peak at just the right time.” 

At the Fighting Illini’s upcoming meet, they hope to engage fans with 2008 Olympic silver medalist and 2007 world champion Samantha Peszek. Peszek will be attending the meet and doing a meet and greet. Fans who meet Peszek can get autographs and take photos with her as she cheers on the team.

“From a gymnast that also comes from Region 5, Samantha Peszek represents the camaraderie and spirit of the sport,” said Stotz. “Her dedication and love for the sport is inspiring. It is awesome to see someone like her spread her talent and joy for gymnastics to collegiate athletes around the world even after she has graduated.”

The gymnasts should be excited, as Peszek is a well-known name in the gymnastics world. In addition to her Olympic and world medals, she is a six-time national team member, took first in the 2007 Pan American Games and inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2013. After her elite career, she did college gymnastics as well, competing for UCLA. There, she became a 17-time All American and three-time NCAA champion.

Attending this meet is not the only time Peszek gives back to the sport she gained so much from, as she holds Beam Queen Bootcamps at gyms all around the country to help young gymnasts get over their fear of the event and become more confident on the apparatus. “I personally am a huge fan of Sam and I think that one of my favorite things about her is how genuine she is and her influence she has had on this sport,” Balthazor said. “Not only has she encouraged confidence and mentality in sport, but also confidence in ourselves as we continue on through life after sports.” 

It is no surprise Peszek wants to attend the Illinois meet, as both of her parents were student-athletes at the University of Illinois. Her mom was on the gymnastics team from 1982 to 1986 and was team captain in 1985 and 1986. Young gymnasts will not only be excited to meet Peszek and get her autograph, but also to attend the youth clinic Illinois gymnasts are holding after the meet, featuring Ninja Warrior events.  

“Sam grew up loving the University of Illinois. She is from Indianapolis area, which is only a short two hours away and we are really looking forward to targeting her hometown so they can come support our team and get an opportunity to see Sam,” Walsh told FloGymnastics. She also shared that the team has catchy promotions planned for the students on campus in the weeks before the meet to encourage students to attend.

As if spectators needed one more reason to Stuff Huff, Walsh shared what a special roster the 2019 Illinois team has. “They genuinely love the sport, their teammates, staff and vision. We have built a culture of total trust and support in one another, and this culture is what will carry them all throughout the season and allow our team to keep rising up week after week.” 

If you are near the University of Illinois, make sure you head over to Huff Hall on Friday, Feb. 8, and help the team beat the record! 


Miranda Martin is a freelance writer who writes about gymnastics, social justice issues, and more. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or contact her through her website.

Legacy, Leadership & A Perfect 10 All On Taylor Houchin's Mind

Taylor Houchin pauses, taking a breath.

MetroPlex Challenge The Next Big Test For No. 1 Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s 2020 campaign can almost be seen as a farewell tour of sorts. It will be the final go-around for senior Maggie Nichols as she completes what has already been an amazing career.

Aly Raisman Announces Retirement in Heartfelt Letter

Although this will not come as a shock for many gymnastics fans, Aly Raisman has officially announced that she will not be vying for a spot on the 2020 U.S. Olympic team.

5 Level 9s To Watch At The 2020 Tampa Bay Turner's Invitational

The 2020 Tampa Bay Turners Invitational is coming up this weekend, and FloGymnastics has you covered with a live stream. This competition will take place Jan. 17-19, and with many exciting gymnasts on the floor, it’s one you won’t want to miss. 

Lexy Ramler Ready For Another B1G Year At Minnesota

In just two seasons, Minnesota junior Lexy Ramler has already made incredible strides for her program. She is the first Gopher to be an All-American on all four events, she achieved the highest individual finish for the program since 1990, and she became highest-scoring all-around gymnast in program history. She’s also achieved a lot individually winning the co-runner up spot at 2019 nationals for both all-around and bars, as well as being a Sports Minneapolis Women’s Collegiate Athlete of the Year Finalist at the 2019 Minnesota Sports Awards. 

20 Standout Big Ten Gymnasts Competing in 2020

A new year means a new season. Gym season that is! As we’ve rung in the new year, teams all across the country have geared up for the 2020 competitive season. From the SEC to the Pac 12, you can expect to see each team bring their A-game—but today, we’re talking Big Ten. 

Big Ten Weekly Notebook: Illinois Starts Strong

Let’s talk Big Ten Week 1. 

The Biggest Stories From The 2020 California Grand Collegiate Challenge

Eight elite NCAA gymnastics teams opened their seasons at the California Grand Invitational Collegiate Challenge. These are the top headlines from the exciting event.

2019 Retrospective: The Gymnasts That Defined The Decade

Looking back on the greatest all-around gymnasts from the past decade, and what to expect from 2020.

5 Level 10 Gymnasts To Watch At The 2020 California Grand Invitational

The 2020 California Grand Invitational is exploding with talent, from NCAA superstars to breakout level 9 and 10’s looking for the spotlight. With so many accomplished gymnasts taking to the mat in just a few days, we’re highlighting just a few of the many skilled level 10 gymnasts to watch at the California Grand Invitational.