Huskie Gymnasts Pull Together for Second Place in State of Illinois Classic

GO HUSKIES Ashlee Williams tied for first on the uneven bars
Ashlee Williams tied for first on the uneven bars

March 19, 2006

Normal, IL -- Northern Illinois University gymnastics coach Mark Sontag was the first to admit things didn't look too good for his Huskies after the first rotation at Saturday's (March 18) State of Illinois Classic.

But then he's also the first to never count out his team and despite a line-up further thinned by injuries, NIU rallied for a second-place finish in the "state championship" for Division I gymnastics programs. The University of Illinois -- ranked 24th in the nation -- claimed the team title with a 191.850 followed in order by NIU's Huskies (190.275), the University of Illinois-Chicago (190.150), and meet host Illinois State University (189.875).

The Illini's Kim Kruk took top honors on the floor exercise with a 9.850 as part of winning the all-around title with a 39.075 tally. Illinois gymnasts Juilie Crall and Marijka Botterman claimed first place for the balance beam (9.875) and vault (9.825), respectively.

It would have been a complete Illinois sweep if not for Northern Illinois' Ashlee Williams (Liberty, MO / Senior), who shared the uneven parallel bars crown with the UI's Krystal Macarek as both gymnasts earned 9.750 scores. The Huskies' next best individual finish came from Jennifer Naughton (Smithville, MO), who tied for third on the balance beam with a 9.750. Naughton also tied for fifth on vault with a 9.725.

NIU teammates Jennifer Rice (Homewood / Homewood-Flossmoor) and Amber Whitecotton (Crystal Lake / South) were part of a tie for fifth on floor exercise at 9.700. The Huskies' Meghan Cronin (St. Charles / East) tied for sixth on the uneven bars with a 9.675.

"Being over a point down and in fourth after the first rotation definitely wasn't a good start. But we never gave up and I really liked the way everyone kept encouraging each other to keep fighting. It paid off," Sontag noted. "No one was really on fire, but we showed so much heart and cohesiveness. We just kept plugging away and trying to get as many hits as possible. They just continue to dig deep into their pockets and pull out whatever they can.



"With Jody (Yednock / West Chicago) now sidelined, Kelly Kramer (Long Lake, MN / Benilde-St. Margaret's) really came through for us. Obviously Ashlee did a great job on bars and Jennifer's third on beam was a solid performance. We've really trained hard through spring break and there was a combination of some fatigue plus being doing newer or harder elements in their routines, but they really persevered," Sontag said. "As we keep trying to have more people help us out, we gain more options. Combine that with our resilience, I can't help but believe it'll help us going into the MAC (Mid-American Conference) Championships."

The Mid-Am summit is indeed next and the finale for the regular-season schedule. Northern Illinois heads to Kalamazoo, MI, for Saturday's 2 p.m. championships which will be hosted by Western Michigan University.

WOMEN'S GYMNASTICS -- Northern Illinois University at State of Illinois Classic / at Normal, IL / Hosted by Illinois State University / ISU's Redbird Arena / Saturday / March 18, 2006

STATE OF ILLINOIS CLASSIC (at Normal, IL / ISU's Redbird Arena) Final Team Standings: 1---Illinois 191.850; 2---Northern Illinois 190.275; 3---Illinois-Chicago 190.150; 4---Illinois State 189.875.

Vault: 1---Marijka Botterman (UI) 9.825; 2---Veronique Meunier (UIC) 9.800; 3---Jess Panos (UIC) 9.775; 4---Kim Kruk (UI) 9.750; 5--(Tie)--Jennifer Naughton (NIU) / Melissa Singer (UI) / Lindsey Smith (UI) 9.725. Other NIU Scores: Amy Ristvedt 9.700; Kelly Kramer 9.600; Bethany Plapp 9.575; Tiffany Anderson 9.500; Amber Whitecotton 9.225. Team Score: UIC: 48.575; UI: 48.300; NIU: 48.100; ISU: 48.075.

Uneven Parallel Bars: 1--(Tie)--Ashlee Williams (NIU) / Krystal Macarek (UI) 9.750; 3--(Tie)--Kim Kruk (UI) / Zandre Labuscha (UIC) 9.725; 5---Veronique Meunier (UIC) 9.700; 6--(Tie)--Meghan Cronin (NIU) / Amanda Candler (ISU) / Cara Pomeroy (UI) 9.675. Other NIU Scores: Allison Holysz 9.600; Tiffany Anderson 9.00; Brittany Swantek 8.725; Bethany Plapp 8.550. Team scores: UI 47.200; UIC: 47.150; NIU: 47.050; ISU: 46.950.

Balance Beam: 1---Julie Crall (UI) 9.875; 2---Jessie Jaworowic (UIC) 9.800; 3--(Tie)--Jennifer Naughton (NIU) / KIm Kruk (UI) / Meaghan Kroshm (ISU) 9.750; 6---Katie Wild (UI) 9.700. Other NIU Scores: Amber Whitecotton 9.600; Kelly Kramer 9.550; Meghan Cronin 9.250; Jennifer Rice 9.150; Amy Ristvedt 9.075. Team scores: UI: 47.775; NIU 47.300; ISU: 47.075; UIC: 46.125.

Floor Exercise: 1---Kim Kruk (UI) 9.850; 2---Marijka Botterman (UI) 9.775; 3---Tover Fjordholm (ISU) 9.750; 4---Jessie Jaworowic (UIC) 9.725; 5--(Tie)--Jennifer Rice (NIU) / Amber Whitecotton (NIU) / Melissa Singer (UI) / Amy Biedenham (ISU) 9.700. NIU Scores: Bethany Plapp 9.675; Jessica Marston 9.500; Amanda Johnson 9.250; Jennifer Naughton 9.000. Team scores: UI: 48.625; UIC: 48.250; NIU: 47.825; ISU: 47.775.

All-Around: 1---Kim Kruk (UI) 39.075; 2---Zandre Labuscha (UIC) 38.300; 3---Marijka Boterman (UI) 38.000; 4---Veronique Meunier (UIC) 37.725; 5--(Tie)--Julie Crall (UI) / Cheryl Berezan (ISU) 36.575.

Next Huskie Meet: Saturday / March 25 -- Northern Illinois University at Mid-American Conference Championships, Kalamazoo, MI (Hosted by Western Michigan University), 2 p.m.

(For further information, please contact Steve Nemeth) -30-

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