Feb. 21, 2014
Illinois Classic Results
NORMAL, Ill. - Well on its way to its top score of the season after starting the meet with its season-best performances on three events, the Northern Illinois University gymnastics team could not sustain its momentum through the balance beam event to finish third in the four-team meet with a final total of 193.625.
Illinois scored 195.825 to take the Illinois Classic title over Illinois-Chicago, which scored 194.300. Illinois State finished fourth at 193.200. NIU's record goes to 5-5 on the season with two wins and a loss on Friday.
After the meet, NIU Head Coach Sam Morreale was left to bemoan what might have been.
"We had a great meet going," Morreale said. "We came out on the first three events, we competed loose, we were aggressive, we attacked the events and we were where we wanted to be. I'm frustrated about what could have been. It was right there. We were on pace for a 195 if we stay on beam. Instead we're still chasing that 194."
The high point of the meet for the Huskies came on uneven parallel bars, where every NIU athlete hit and five of six earned a season or career best score, propelling NIU to a team total of 48.900. That tied for the eighth-highest bars score all-time at NIU and the best since the 2011 Huskies went 48.925 at the Illinois Classic Meet.
Senior Megan Melendez, out of action since suffering an injury on January 24, returned with a vengeance as she scored a career best 9.850 on bars to tie for third in the meet. Lauren Africano and Natalie Amadio both earned their season best bars scores at 9.775 and 9.750, respectively, while Kylie Clark's 9.750 was a career high mark. Kim Gotlund tied Africano for sixth place with a 9.775and Meg Piepenbrink scored a 9.700 in her debut performance in the line-up.
"Bars it was nice to see us hit, see us execute there and be rewarded," Morreale said. "Getting Megan Melendez back, coming off of injury to go 9.850 just shows what kind of athlete she is. She gets it."
NIU opened the meet by recording its top team scores of the season on both floor exercise and vault with matching 48.750 team totals on those two events.
On floor exercise, Bloomington native Peyton Taylor (Normal University HS) and Amanda Stepp each scored a 9.825, tying their respective career highs, to lead the Huskies and tie for fourth in the meet. Freshman Megan Gilliam earned the first of her two career high scores on the day with a 9.700 on the event and Kelly Nortz added a 9.725.
NIU went with just five vaults after each of its first five performers scored a 9.700 or higher for the first time this season. Gilliam tied Jaelyn Olsen for team high honors on vault with her career best 9.775 as they tied for sixth on vault. Stepp and Nortz set and tied their season best vaults, respectively, with 9.750 scores.
Without a miss through its first three rotations, NIU was riding high heading into its last event. Unfortunately it was not to be as Gotlund was the only Huskie to score better than 9.575 on beam and NIU was forced to count both a 9.225 and a 9.150 in its team total of 47.225. Gotlund's score of 9.750 tied her season best on the event and was good for a tie for third place in the meet.
Gotlund's all-around performance provided another bright spot as the senior continues to be NIU's most consistent gymnast. She recorded a 38.900 score to take fourth place in the meet. The total was just .025 off her season best total. She and Melendez were both named to the All-State team with top three finishes on beam and bars, respectively.
Morreale said he wasn't sure what to make of the Huskies problems on beam, usually a solid event for NIU.
"We went to the last event and maybe felt how good we were doing, that it could be special and we kind of lost it," he said. "We looked cautious, our first person fell and that put more pressure on and it steamrolled from there. It never settled down. We get another shot to finish on beam Sunday and we'll see what we take from this. I still have confidence in everyone we put up there."
NIU has a chance to get right back up on the beam, bars, floor exercise and vault on Sunday as the Huskies travel to Bowling Green, Ohio for a Mid-American Conference match-up against the Falcons. The meet gets underway at 1 p.m. (CT) Sunday with live scoring available at www.bgsufalcons.com.
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