March 1, 2014
DeKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois University seniors Kim Gotlund, Natasha Jufko and Megan Melendez will compete at home for the last time as the NIU women's gymnastics team takes on No. 16 Central Michigan Sunday at 2 p.m. in the NIU Convocation Center. Admission, and parking for the meet, which has also been designated as the Huskies' Alumnae Meet, are free.
Live scoring will be available here. The meet can be viewed live online (subscription required) via NIUTube at www.NIUHuskies.com or follow on Twitter @niuscores.
An all-arounder who has completed 130 routines in four years in the line-up for NIU, Gotlund has been the Huskies' most consistent gymnast in 2014. She is averaging a 38.704 all-around score behind a 9.718 average floor exercise. Her top marks in 2014 include a 9.700 on vault, 9.800 on uneven parallel bars, 9.750 on balance beam and 9.775 on floor exercise. Just five of her 28 routines this season have scored below 9.600.
Limited by injury early in her career, Jufko has developed into one of NIU's top balance beam workers in her two seasons in the line-up with eight scores of 9.800 or higher. She has a career best mark of 9.850.
Melendez returned to action for NIU last week for the first time since January 24 and is expected to compete on uneven parallel bars and balance beam Sunday. The Stafford, Va. product scored an 9.850 on bars in her first routine back last weekend at the State of Illinois Classic. Her career has spanned 59 routines, including 24 on bars and 25 on beam, with 18 of her 25 beam routines all-time scoring a 9.700 or higher for the Huskies. She recorded 10 9.8 or above scores a year ago to lead all NIU gymnasts.
NIU Head Coach Sam Morreale
said this senior class, which includes two gymnasts who had to retire early due to injury in Elizabeth Huffman
and Maggie Cimarolli
, still has goals in its sights.
"Their goal is to put a mark on this program," Morreale said. "They have done it in many ways but are now facing their last home meet so they are starting to realize time is getting short. They all still have a chance to win a MAC Championship, both as a team and individually."
Morreale is happy to see Melendez return to the line-up.
"Megan has had to come back her entire career," Morreale said. "She was rehabbing an injury when she came in as a freshman, then injured her knee as a freshman. She's shown resolve year in and year out in coming back. She's a special competitor. She said that when she had to watch the meets earlier this year, it was the hardest thing she's had to do. I think that really spurred her desire to come back."
NIU (5-6, 2-2 MAC) will need its strongest competitors in the line-up versus CMU (10-2, 3-1 MAC), which currently has a Regional Qualifying Score of 196.030, the highest in program history. The Chippewas are ranked in the Top 20 in the nation on every event as a team. Morreale said the Huskies must continue to focus on their own performances and have practiced well leading up to Sunday's meet.
"Central has won the last four MAC Championships and they are ranked 16th in the country, so we know we're going up against a great team," he said. "CMU is a national caliber team, not just a league opponent, so we are approaching it like we do when we go against Nebraska or Illinois or any other highly-ranked team. We've had a great week of practice to get ready and we're getting healthier every day. Physically we are in a good place, now we have to perform."
Following Sunday's competition, the Huskies will have two regular season meets remaining as they travel to Eastern Michigan (March 8) and Arizona State (March 14) before the MAC Championships on Saturday, March 22nd in Ypsilanti, Mich.
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