Jan. 16, 2013
DeKALB, Ill. - After earning a 9.825 on balance beam in her first career appearance in the Northern Illinois gymnastics line-up, Huskie junior Natasha Jufko (Spring Hill, Fla./Pasco-Hernando HS) was honored Wednesday as the Mid-American Conference Specialist of the Week.
Jufko, who battled injuries in her first two seasons on campus before making her NIU debut Sunday versus Illinois State, earned the highest score of the day for Northern Illinois on any event. She tied for first place on balance beam in the meet to help the Huskies record a narrow (192.175-192.050) team victory over the Redbirds in the 2013 season opener.
NIU Head Coach Sam Morreale said the fact Jufko was able to perform at that high level in her first meet in the Huskie line-up is a testament to her hard work and perseverance.
"The performance was spot on and this award is well-deserved," Morreale said. "We saw this out of Natasha in training leading up to the season, so it's great that she's able to come out in the first meet and put together a routine that is as close to perfect as you can get so early on. It's a testament to her after two injury-plagued seasons to be able to come out and forget about all of that, and the fact it was her first time in line-up, and perform with confidence, which is what you have to do on beam because it's such a mental event. She consistently trains at a 9.9 pace so we're looking forward to building on this first meet and reaching even higher."
NIU recorded just one score higher than 9.825 on balance beam a year ago. Jufko is the first Huskie gymnast to win a MAC weekly award in 2013. Last year, Northern Illinois gymnasts earned four Specialist of the Week honors, including three by Megan Melendez, who went on to be named the MAC's Co-Specialist of the Year. The MAC Specialist of the Week goes to one gymnast among the seven league schools who competes in only one or two events per meet.
Northern Illinois (1-0) opens MAC competition this Saturday, Jan. 19 with a home meet versus Bowling Green at the NIU Convocation Center. The meet begins at 5 p.m., preceding the NIU men's basketball game versus Western Michigan. One ticket will be good for admission to both events.
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