No. 17 Illinois defeats Western Mich.
Buckley breaks Illini career title record
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- It was the perfect Senior Day for Allison Buckley, as she broke the Illinois all-time career event titles record on Sunday afternoon to lead the No. 17 Illini past Western Michigan at Huff Hall. The Schaumburg, Ill., native collected four more crowns to bring her career total to 59 titles, one more than Nancy Thies' old mark of 58, which stood for 34 years. As a team, Illinois registered nine scores over 9.850 and posted a season-high total of 196.425, which ranks sixth in school history, to defeat the Broncos (193.925).
"Allison has been a steady force for Illinois gymnastics since she came here," interim head coach Kim Landrus said. "She continues to put in the hard work each week and delivers one time after another. She is a confident competitor and knows that all eyes are on her when she is out on the floor. She has been so successful because she has so much confidence in herself each time she competes."
After tying for third on vault with a 9.825 to start the day, Buckley needed to sweep the final three event titles and win the all-around in order to set the record at home. The two-time All-American stepped up when she needed to and did just that. Buckley tied for the bars crown with a 9.850, marking just the second time she has ever won the event in her career, and posted another 9.850 on beam to tie for the top spot. When teammate Amber See tallied a 9.925 in the second-to-last floor routine, it meant Buckley needed to match her career high (9.925) in the final performance of the meet to tie the record.
Buckley nailed her floor routine and delivered the fifth 9.925 of her career to earn a share of the event title. Her score on floor also increased her all-around score to 39.450, which tied her own mark on the record list with the fourth-best score in school history and earned her the record-setting 59th title of her career. As an Illinois gymnast, Buckley totaled a team-high 19 crowns in 2008, eight titles during an injury-shortened sophomore season in 2009 and a team-best 15 event wins in 2010. Her 17 victories this season include six in the all-around, five on floor, three on beam and two on vault. For her career, she owns 15 titles on vault, two on bars, 10 on beam, 15 on floor and 17 in the all-around.
Following the Senior Day festivities, members of the Thies family honored Buckley for her achievement. The Urbana natives were in attendance to celebrate the accomplishment and read a congratulatory letter from Nancy, who cheered on Allison from her home in Oregon.
"It was a really special Senior Day," Buckley said. "It was so exciting to be able to do it in front of our home fans and with my family here. It was really cool to have Nancy's family here and be able to share the experience with them. I really enjoyed the letter from Nancy that they read."
It appeared Illinois would have a solid meet from the start, as the Illini carried the momentum from a strong finish on Friday at Oklahoma into the first rotation on Sunday, tying the fifth-best vault score in school history with a season-high 49.150. See notched her third vault title of the year with a personal-best mark of 9.900 while senior Melissa Fernandez was right behind in second-place with a season-high 9.850. Junior Kelsey Joannides and Buckley tied for third at 9.825 and Weinstein rounded out the scoring after turning in a 9.750.
"It was all about momentum for us today," Landrus said. "We started off great on vault and carried that through the rest of the meet. To get over a 196 was a good stepping stone for us, so now the girls can take confidence away from this and move on to focus on all the little things to get ready for championship season."
Coming off a season-high mark on bars from Friday, the Illini competed well again on the event, notching the second-best mark of the season with a 48.975. Buckley's 9.850 paced the effort while Weinstein and Fernandez tied for third at 9.800. Sophomore Jaclyn Kantecki placed fifth with a 9.775 and sophomore Macy Hyatt added a 9.750 to wrap up the scoring.
The Orange and Blue swept the top four spots on beam on their way to a score of 48.875. Buckley and Fernandez were atop the standings at 9.850 and were followed by Joannides' 9.825 in third and See's 9.725, which tied for fourth. Weinstein chipped in a 9.625 to complete the event scoring.
Illinois equaled the fourth-best floor score in UI history in the final rotation of the day, recording a season-best mark of 49.425. Buckley and See led the way with personal-best scores of 9.925 while Fernandez and Weinstein tied for third with career-high marks of 9.875. Senior Samantha Perino and Joannides tied for sixth at 9.825 to give the Illini their fourth floor score over 49 this season.
In the all-around, Fernandez matched the best performance of her career in the final home meet of the year, earning the runner-up spot with a 39.375. Weinstein also competed on all four events and registered a score of 39.050.
All four Illini seniors, Buckley, Fernandez, Perino and Lashlee Morris, were recognized following the completion of the meet.
"Senior Day is always very emotional," Landrus said. "Our four seniors have meant so much to the program during their time here, and it was an outstanding way to finish their careers at home. It also was a really special presentation for Allison. She and the entire Illini family felt honored that the Thies family was able to be here to celebrate the accomplishment."