March 20, 2008
DeKalb, Ill.- The Northern Illinois women's gymnastics team looks to have a strong showing at the Illinois State Championships on Saturday, March 22nd. The meet, taking place in Huff Hall at the University of Illinois-Champaign campus, is slated to begin at 2 p.m., and will include NIU, Illinois State and the University of Illinois-Chicago as well as host the Illinois.
Throughout the season, the Huskies have faced the University of Illinois-Chicago twice and Illinois State University once, earning a win on all three occasions.
"Our regular season schedule has helped us to build confidence for the larger meets," head coach Mark Sontag said. "We have had the fortunate opportunity to compete against two of the three teams we will be facing at the Illinois State Championships during the regular season. Additionally, we have had a few big meets where we competed against two teams or more, and they have helped us prepare for what to expect in the larger competitions. Our past two meets we competed in the same rotations of events [starting on bars] and that is what we will be starting with at the State Championships. The consistency of the same rotation order is a nice element going into the meet on Saturday."
The Huskies are now 9-2 for the season, and 5-2 in the MAC following a triangular meet versus MAC defending champ Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green State University on March 14th. The overall score of 193.625 marks the team's third-highest finish of the season, as they have remarkably never scored lower than a 191.750 overall in the regular season. The last time the Huskies finished with nine wins or more was in 2005, when the team finished third at the MAC championships, and two gymnasts advanced to the NCAA Regionals.
"Our practices have been very intense throughout this whole season and we have focused a lot on improving and perfecting our individual routines," Sontag said when asked how the team has been preparing for the meet. "You cannot do much about the scores at the meet, but you can always work on consistency and accuracy and be as prepared as possible."
Following season-best performances on both the vault and beam at the past meet versus Bowling Green, NIU junior Jennifer Naughton
(Smithville, Mo./Smithville HS) will look to build on that momentum and help lead the Huskies to a State Championship victory this Saturday. The Huskies will also look for leadership from the two all-arounders junior Leah Johnson
(Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South HS) and freshman Holly Reichard
(Palatine, Ill./Palatine Fremd HS). Both have continued to post consistent scores throughout the season, with Johnson and Reichard posting season-best scores of 38.925 and 39.050, respectively.
The Huskies will also look for solid performances by Rachel Adams (Frutiport, Mich./Fruitport HS), Natalie Blum (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township HS), Jennifer Rice(Homewood, Ill./Homewood-Flossmoor HS) and Jessica Watanabe (Palatine, Ill./Palatine HS) who have consistently earned good marks for the Huskies.
Following the conclusion of the Illinois State Championships on Saturday, the Huskies will travel to Kent, Ohio on March 22nd , where they will compete at the MAC Championships.