March 14, 2009
Complete Results in PDF Format
CHICAGO - With one week until the Mid-American Conference Championships, the Northern Illinois women's gymnastics team continues to literally "raise the bar" as it turned in its top team score of the season, as well as the fourth-highest mark in school history, Saturday at the Illinois Classic.
The Huskies' team total of 194.925 was good enough to take second place in the quadrangular meet as 18th-ranked Illinois won the event with a team score of 196.450. UIC, a team that had defeated NIU in a dual meet earlier this season, was third at 194.800, followed by fourth-place Illinois State with 193.275.
The 194.925 is NIU's best score since February 1, 2004 when the Huskies had a 195.100 at Kent State.
Northern Illinois entered its final event, the uneven parallel bars, just two-tenths of a point ahead of both UIC, which would compete on floor exercise in the final rotation, and Illinois State, on balance beam. But led by freshmen Ashley Guerra (Orland Park, Ill./Carl Sandburg HS) and Tanya Rachan (Lowell, Ind./Hanover Central HS), the Huskies posted their highest bars score of the season with a 48.925 to claim the runner-up spot. The team score was the fifth-best bars total ever at NIU.
Guerra earned a career-best, and a team-season high 9.875 to take second place on the uneven parallel bars, while Rachan scored a 9.825 to tie for fourth. Leah Johnson (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South HS), a late addition to the bars line-up, added her best bars score of the season with a 9.775.
"Our bars versus their [UIC's] floor is usually a tough proposition," said NIU head coach Mark Sontag. "Bars is another event where if you don't hit at least five routines, you're in trouble. It shows that we don't have a weak event."
The Huskies started the meet extremely strong as they posted a season-best 49.100 on balance beam, the fourth-best beam total in NIU history and the highest since March 5, 2006. Senior Jennifer Naughton
(Smithville, Mo./Smithville HS) anchored the balance beam with a season and career best 9.925, the best single score on any event for NIU this season and the highest beam score in the MAC this year. Naughton tied for first in the meet but the Huskies were strong up and down the beam line-up as sophomore Jessica Watanabe
(Palatine, Ill./Palatine HS) led off the beam with a 9.825, Rachan added a 9.800 and all three of the Huskies' remaining gymnasts came in at 9.775.
"It's good to come out strong and then you're not playing catch up the rest of the meet," Sontag said. "We went out and performed at the top of our game, and it gave us confidence when you get through one of the real `make or break' events as well as we did."
Northern Illinois tallied a 48.525 on floor exercise as Johnson and Naughton tied for fourth with 9.850s while Holly Reichard (Palatine, Ill./Palatine Fremd HS) was in a group at 9.825 and Rachan scored a 9.750. Natalie Blum (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township HS) led NIU on vault as she tied for fifth with a 9.775. Johnson and Naughton tied for ninth on that event as they each scored a 9.725.
The 194.925 score comes on the heels of a 194.300 posted by the Huskies on Monday in a dual meet versus Western Michigan. Both scores replace lower marks in the Regional Qualifying Standards (RQS) rankings which are tabulated on Mondays.
Sontag said the key to Northern Illinois' recent good performances is taking the effort in training and bringing it to the competition, something he hopes will continue as the Huskies head to the MAC Championships next Saturday in Muncie, Ind.
"As a team, we're together," Sontag said. "We have a complete line-up, six deep on every event, each of whom can score a 9.9. We want to continue to ride this wave of confidence into MACs. I think we're even better than this. We still haven't had that perfect meet. We seem to be peaking and it's certainly a good time for that."
The Huskies close out the season next Saturday, March 21 at the 2009 Mid-American Conference Championships in Muncie, Ind. Ball State will host the seven-team competition.
-- NIU --