NIU Gymnasts Open 2007 Campaign Sunday at Convocation Center

GO HUSKIES Sophomore Jennifer Naughton will compete in three events for the Huskies at Sunday's season-opening meet.
Sophomore Jennifer Naughton will compete in three events for the Huskies at Sunday's season-opening meet.

Jan. 12, 2007

DeKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois women's gymnastics team will open its 2007 season Sunday as they welcome the University of Wisconsin-Stout and M.I.T. to the Convocation Center for the season-opening meet. Competition begins at 2 p.m.

Tickets for the event, which will be held in the main seating area of the Convo, are $5 for adults and $3 for youth (under 18) while NIU students are free with ID. Tickets can be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the meet.

Meanwhile, Northern Illinois, which finished fifth at last season's MAC Championships, was tabbed to place fourth this season in the Mid-American Conference preseason coaches' poll. Kent State was the choice to win the regular season title, followed by Central Michigan and Western Michigan.

Sontag, however, likes the look of his 2007 squad, which has added four talented freshmen to a strong core group of returnees.

"We'll be pushing all those [MAC] teams," said Sontag, who begins his seventh season as NIU's head coach in 2007. "We've got a great team and if we stay healthy and keep doing what we can do, while continuing to add new skills, I don't think there's anybody in the MAC we can't compete with.

"The opening meet is a great opportunity to see teams we haven't competed against or seen before," Sontage continued. "Both M.I.T. and Wisconsin-Stout are very good teams, but we're not worrying about the other teams. Our goal is go out there and put up 24 routines and hit 24. We have our own goals to attain, hitting routines, mastering the new skills we have added and starting this push toward a championship."

Team captains Jody Yednock (West Chicago, Ill.), Tiffany Anderson (Bolingbrook, Ill.) and Amy Ristvedt (Alexandria, Minn.) will provide leadership as well as strong routines, although Ristvedt will sit out the opening meet due to injury. Sontag also mentioned sophomore Leah Johnson (Glenview, Ill.) as a gymnast to watch during Sunday's meet. Johnson is coming off an injury which curtailed her freshman season, but has been impressive in preseason practices.

"Leah Johnson looks great," Sontag said. "She got hurt as a freshman but we're looking for great things from her this season. I would tell our fans to definitely watch her this Sunday, as well as Jody Yednock, who has one of the top bar routines in the country. Jennifer Naughton does a unique and special vault that fans will not want to miss."

Sontag also sang the praises of freshman Natalie Blum (Homer Glen, Ill.), who will compete in three events Sunday.

"Natalie is one of the hardest working gymnasts I've been around in a long time," Sontag said. "She's going to go in three events as a freshman. She has upgraded all of her routines since she arrived this fall."

After working with his 2007 team in workouts throughout the fall and seeing many team members add new skills to their routines, Sontag said he and the team are anxious and ready for the competitions to get underway.

"We have people doing a lot of new skills, so we need to get into a meet and see how that goes in a competition," said the NIU mentor. "I'm looking forward to this season more than any year I can remember. The team has been coming together and everyone is really focused on what we're doing. It's a fun team to work with. We're as ready as we can be to compete."

The meet, the first of five home competitions for the Huskies this season, begins at 2 p.m. with NIU starting on the vault. Northern Illinois' next action is Sunday, January 28 when MAC competition opens with the Huskies playing host to Bowling Green at 2 p.m. at the Convocation Center.

-- NIU --