March 13, 2010
YPSILANTI, Mich. - Northern Illinois gymnasts claimed individual titles in all four events at the EMU Eagle Invitational Saturday, leading the Huskies to a second-place finish at the quadrangular meet with a team score of 191.300.
Host Eastern Michigan won the team title with a score of 192.175, while Northern Illinois' 191.300 total put the Huskies ahead of Western Michigan (190.700) and Seattle Pacific (187.25). NIU improved to 8-6 on the season and completed the regular season with a 3-4 record versus MAC opponents.
NIU's Natalie Blum (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township HS) won the floor exercise and vault with scores of 9.800 and 9.725, respectively, junior Jessica Watanabe (Palatine, Ill./Palatine HS) claimed the title on balance beam with a 9.750 and sophomore Ashley Guerra (Orland Park, Ill./Carl Sandburg HS) earned the meet's top score on the uneven parallel bars with a 9.725.
The Huskies' performance in the tightly-scored meet left NIU head coach Mark Sontag with a positive feeling about his team.
"I'm feeling really good," Sontag said. "We wanted this meet to be a positive springboard into the last two meets [of the year] and I think we were able to accomplish that. We did a good job of not letting a setback get to us during the meet. If we had a miss, the next person stepped up. With the MAC meet coming up, we have to do that - keep our energy up and stay focused and not let it affect us when things don't go according to plan."
As has been the case most of the season, the Huskies excelled on uneven parallel bars and floor exercise with team scores of 48.100 and 48.050 on those events. In addition to Guerra's win on bars, Holly Reichard (Palatine, Ill./Fremd HS) tied for third with a 9.700 and Tanya Rachan (Lowell, Ind./Hanover Central HS) added a 9.600 on the event. Blum's 9.800 on floor exercise was backed up by Rachan's 9.750, good for fourth place. Watanabe's win on beam was her second title on that event this season while Guerra claimed a win on bars for the fourth time. Guerra added a 9.600 on balance beam to tie for sixth. Blum claimed her third win on vault and her third floor exercise title of the season. NIU's Shonda Clore (Grand Rapids, Mich./Northview) placed fifth on vault with a 9.575.
"Ashley had a really nice routine on bars and Jessie [Watanabe] was great on balance beam," Sontag said. "Natalie did what she has been doing all season. We counted a couple of misses so we're still searching for that perfect 24 for 24 meet."
Northern Illinois next travels to Bloomington, Ill. to take on Illinois, Illinois State and UIC in the State of Illinois Classic on Saturday, March 20.
-- NIU -
Keep up with all the latest news and information on Northern Illinois sports, read "Huskie Happenings" daily at www.NIUHuskies.com.