Notebook: Flying Illini
Jan. 19, 2010
By Amy Farnum
SPRINGING INTO STEP: The University of Illinois began first-year associate head coach Justin Spring’s career on a high note as the Illini claimed the Windy City Invitational title for the first time since the 2005 season. Illinois won five of six individual events en route to the championship in the season-opening event.
Spring, a former All-American and Olympic Bronze Medalist, took the reins from Yoshi Hayaskai, who retired at the end of last season. Spring, who was named Central Region Assistant Coach of the Year along with fellow assistant Ivan Ivankov in 2009, ended his competitive gymnastics career to turn his attention to full-time coaching with his promotion.
Junior Paul Ruggeri claimed the all-around title (88.600) at the event, and won the high bar with a score of 15.600. He also placed second in floor exercise (15.550 and vault (15.800) and took fourth (14.450) on the parallel bars. The native of Manlius, N.Y., garnered Big Ten Gymnast of the Week for his performance – his fourth career honor.
The top-ranked Illini, who turned in the highest team score (353.70) in season-opening competition, travels to No. 7 Ohio State on Jan. 30 for a Big Ten meet.
SOONER THAN LATER: Oklahoma captured its 11th consecutive team title at the Rocky Mountain Open, sparked by freshman Jacob Dalton’s victory in the all-around (87.500) in his first collegiate meet on Jan. 16.
The Sooners picked up five individual event titles at the event with Dalton taking the vault (16.250), parallel bars (14.900) and high bar (14.800).
Dalton, who was named the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Men’s Gymnast of the Week, led the nation with a 16.250 score on the vault last week, while his all-around total was third in nation.
The No. 3 Sooners travel to No. 9 Iowa on Jan. 23 for their next competition.
CARDINAL RULES: Defending NCAA Champion and preseason No. 1 Stanford picked up where it left off in 2009 with a resounding 352.75-340.1 victory over then-No. 2 California on Jan. 15.
Junior Tim Gentry, one of six returning All-Americans for the Cardinal, won the vault (16.1) and still rings (15.65) to lead Stanford in the win against the Golden Bears.
Stanford turns around next weekend for a rematch against California as it hosts the Golden Bears on Jan. 23.
WISH GRANT-ED: Penn State’s Nick Grant garnered Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week after claiming the floor exercise and vault titles in his collegiate debut as he led the Nittany Lions to their 12th straight team championship at the West Point Open last weekend.
The native of Butler, Pa., advanced to the individual event finals in the two events, and placed first in the floor with a 15.200 and took second on the vault with a 15.600.
The Nittany Lions open Big Ten competition at Michigan -- the 2009 NCAA runner-up -- on Jan. 24. The Wolverines took second place at the Windy City Invitational last weekend. The Big Ten Network will broadcast the meet via tape delay on Jan. 30 at 12 p.m. ET.