March 27, 2010
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio - The Northern Illinois gymnastics put together its best overall performance of the season at the Mid-American Conference Championships Saturday to take fourth place at the league meet with a season-high score of 193.200.
Northern Illinois finished just one-tenth of a point ahead of fifth place Ball State, which came in at 193.100. The Huskies were .425 behind third place Eastern Michigan. Central Michigan won the team title with defending champion and preseason favorite Kent State second.
"We talked about having four strong events and felt like we hadn't done that this year," said NIU Head Coach Mark Sontag. "When you walk in and are consistent on all four events, good things can happen. We worked so hard to try to keep our focus on what we have control over and not on the injuries or the other excuses. We did what we came here to do, which was have our best meet of the year, so we're pretty happy with the day. It's a real positive end to our regular season."
The Huskies earned their highest team scores of the year on balance beam and vault, with totals of 48.400 and 48.525, respectively. The effort on vault came on NIU's final rotation as Natalie Blum (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township HS) anchored the line-up with a team-high 9.800 to tie for fourth place in the event. Her vault came after both Natalie Sutter (Barberton, Ohio/Barberton HS) and Shonda Clore (Grand Rapids, Mich./Northview HS) had recorded their best vaults of the 2010 season with matching 9.750 scores to tie for 13th in the meet. Sutter's previous best on vault this season was a 9.700 while Clore had not scored above 9.625 on the event this season prior to Saturday.
"Natalie's [Blum] vault was huge for her to go 9.800," Sontag said. "That clinched fourth place. She was the last chance to score for us in the meet and if she goes 9.675, we are fifth."
Sutter's performance on floor exercise gave Northern Illinois a huge lift as the freshman tied the Huskies' team season-best on the event with a 9.825 to tie for seventh place in the MAC. Her previous best on floor this year was a 9.775.
"Natalie has been finding her timing, tumbling stronger and more aggressively than I had seen her since she's been here," Sontag said. "She just really went out there and rocked one today."
On balance beam, Northern Illinois scored a season-high 48.400 behind junior Holly Reichard (Palatine, Ill./Fremd HS), whose 9.825 took third place in the meet. Reichard's score tied her best, and the team's best, on the year. She was backed up by Ashley Guerra (Orland Park, Ill./Carl Sandburg HS), named the 2010 MAC Specialist of the Year on Friday, who tied for 11th with a 9.725, while Sarah Hurley (Geneva, Ill./Geneva Community HS) added a top 20 finish with a 9.675 and Clore's 9.650 tied her season best on the event.
"We've been working a lot on the little stuff, getting the tenths here, eliminating the little bobble there," Sontag said. "We've really tried to refine the routines a lot. That paid off for us today as we were just a tenth out of fifth place."
Reichard was also the Huskies' top finisher on uneven parallel bars as she tied for 12th with a 9.675 and was followed closely by Guerra who earned a 9.650 to tie for 18th. Reichard's total of 38.725 on the four events was good for a sixth-place finish in the all-around.
"Both beam and bars were amazing all the way through the line-up for us today," Sontag said. "We really helped ourselves out by starting with a strong event. Too many times this year, we ended up digging our way out of holes, and today we stayed consistently building all the way through the meet. We finally passed the 193 barrier and it was a great time to do it."
To view complete results of the MAC Championships meet, click here or go to www.mac-sports.com.
Northern Illinois has several individuals in contention for an NCAA Regional bid. Those bids will be announce on Monday.
-- NIU -
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