Big Ten Weekly Notebook: Illinois Starts Strong

Let’s talk Big Ten Week 1. 

Of the 10 gymnastics teams in the conference, only five have started their season, leaving the remaining five teams scoreless and ranking-less after the first week of competition. But have no fear, as everyone is about to put the pedal to the medal this weekend!

Here is a brief rundown of what happened in the Big Ten this week from the five teams that kicked off their 2020 season, and check out the schedule at the bottom for what is to come this weekend. 

I-L-L…I-N-Is kicking some butt

The Fighting Illini came out on top of the Big Ten after Week 1, posting a 195.85 team score and coming out of their tri-meet with a win over Missouri and SEMO. The Illini started the meet on bars and nearly broke 49, ending with a 48.975. Especially following the departure of Illinois bars standout Mary Jane Otto the Illini needed to replace a hugely important routine and dependable score from Otto. Luckily, it looks like they are off to a great start. 

Beam came with a few hiccups for the Illini, but Mia Takekawa posted a huge 9.9 and shows immense potential for big beam scores year round. On Tuesday, the Big Ten announced that it had chosen Takekawa as both the gymnast of the week and freshman of the week.

Floor was another highlight this weekend for the Illini. They finished with a very respectable 49.25 and no score under a 9.825 from anyone in the lineup. That is a floor squad to keep an eye out for this season.

Finishing in consistent fashion, the Illini ended the meet on vault with three athletes scoring a 9.7 and three a 9.775. Although consistent, once those scores can be bumped up to a 9.8 or higher, the team will be looking at a comfortable score. 

The Spartans looking to build

Michigan State started its 2020 season off at Western Michigan on Sunday. With the away meet order, the Spartans began on bars and endured some trouble right off the bat. A few uncharacteristic falls and first-meet jitters set the Spartans back on the event, but two huge routines ending with dismount sticks by Sydney Ewing and Lea Mitchell finished the bars rotation with a bang! The Spartans then began gaining momentum in the meet and finished with a massive 9.925 on beam from Ella Douglas, a routine which has immense potential for a perfect 10.0 this season! Look out, she is heating up!

The Spartans finished the meet with a 191.95, a score I can imagine they aren’t too thrilled about. However, this team is packed with talent and absolutely has potential to move up in the rankings. Following some basic first-meet mistakes, Michigan State will definitely look to drop that score in the future.

Hawkeye energy headlines the B1G

The Hawkeyes are well-known in the Big Ten and the NCAA for their infectious energy and passion. 2020 is no exception. The Hawkeyes roared with energy and excitement in Week 1 while competing at the Critique Classic in Florida. The Hawkeyes are definitely looking to keep this energy and momentum up all year long. 

Despite the energy, the Hawkeyes struggled a bit on their opening event, bars. Luckily, that bump in the road didn’t seem to phase the team as they picked up momentum going into beam and all the way through vault. A massive 9.925 on vault from sophomore Lauren Guerin concluded the Hawkeyes’ first meet of the year and served as a highlight. It also penciled her name in the Iowa record book as the ninth-highest vault score in program history.

Once bars gets cleaned up, the Hawkeyes will be in stellar shape for the season. Look for big things from head coach Larissa Libby and her 2020 squad as they are bringing the energy and the heat!

Penn State shows huge potential

Penn State began its season against Denver, Arizona State, and Auburn in the first session at the Collegiate Challenge in Anaheim, California. The Nittany Lions started their year off with the addition of LSU standout Ashleigh Gnat to the coaching staff. Gnat is going to be a hugely beneficial member of the already superb coaching staff for Penn State with her expertise on performance quality of routines, specifically on beam and floor. The Nittany Lions and the Big Ten are thrilled to welcome Gnat to the conference!

Despite a strong coaching staff, the Nittany Lions didn’t have the meet they had hoped for to open the season. They began with two extremely uncharacteristic falls on floor, but they rallied in the end and closed out the meet with three solid events, shining especially bright on bars and beam. The following weeks will bring numerous opportunities for Penn State to gain momentum and ultimately drop the 193.5 it earned this past weekend. 

Nebraska making the most out of a Monday

The Huskers began their season with a rare Monday meet at Boise State. The bars and vault rotations were pretty normal for a first meet, nothing the Huskers should worry about. The most significant area of struggle came on floor where there were some uncharacteristic endurance mistakes. Their final rotation on beam proved to be their best.

Despite finishing off strong, the Huskers fell short to Boise State, finishing with a 195.6 to Boise State’s 195.75. However, this is not a disastrous score at all. It is important to note the Husker lineups were missing a few important contributors in this opening meet. Kynsee Roby, Adnerys de Jesus, and Sarah Hargrove weren’t seen in the lineups this week, all of whom will add depth and highly difficult and well-executed routines to the Huskers’ lineups. Once they step in and some of the early nerves get worked out, the Huskers will be in good shape for a strong 2020 season.

A challenge for the Huskers comes early on this season. Following a Monday away meet, the Huskers are looking at yet another oddly timed meet, once again away. They head to Southern Utah for a Thursday meet, starting at 12 p.m. MT. With little time to recovery, the Huskers will need to put mind over matter to face this early challenge of two meets very close together.  

Upcoming Big Ten Action, Live on FloGymnastics

Thursday, January 9

Temple, Penn & Lindenwood @ Illinois 8 PM ET

Friday, January 10

Texas Woman’s & Washington @ Michigan 6:30 PM ET

Saturday, January 11

Central Michigan & Illinois State @ Michigan State 2 PM ET

NC State @ Ohio State 4 PM ET

West Virginia @ Penn State 4 PM ET

Air Force & Ball State @ Iowa 5 PM ET

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