LIVE BLOG: No. 17 Illinois at No. 7 Minnesota

I am reporting live from Mautri Pavilion at the Minnesota Gopher’s home opener against Illinois. Tonight is Superhero theme night and folks in the audience are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite cartoon, comic or real life hero.

Minnesota is entering the meet as the favorite, coming off of a great showing last weekend against Rutgers, Bowling Green and Ursinus. The Gophers scored a massive 49.700 (!!!) on beam, a record for the program, which also included multiple Gophers achieving career bests: 9.900 for senior Mary Korlin-Downs, 9.975 for sophomore Tiarre Sales, and the long-coveted 10.0 for junior Lexy Ramler. Check out this video summary if you want a sampling of just how good it was. Minnesota is officially knocking at the door of scoring a 197, and a home meet might be the perfect place to do that (if you also ignore the fact that its home is within the Big 10, and well, we know how that tends to go).

Illinois has been scoring in the mid- to high-195s, consistently showing that it is capable of keeping up with the conference leaders. Much ado has been made about freshman Mia Takekawa, and for good reason: She not only notched the first 10.0 on beam in Illinois history, she did it at her second meet ever. This will also be an important meet for the Illini due to the fact that they will want a good score here: we are getting closer to NQS season where away meets will count greatly.

Both teams have areas where they would like to see some improvement: For the Illini, vault is their weakest event, and being able to clean that up would do wonders to help boost their scoring potential. The Gophers have come out strong on two of their traditionally weaker events—vault and floor – and are actually ranked lowest on bars of all things.  They are certainly capable of big scores here, and at this point just need to put all the pieces together.

An exciting Illinois development: Rae Balthazor is in a leo and running through things on beam. She is not listed in the lineup, though. Perhaps we will see an exhibition routine?

I am also hoping to see an exhibition from Minnesota sophomore Tiarre Sales on floor – she has very fun choreography and if she can get her tumbling cleaned up she is a very viable option there.

Alright all the Gophers have FABULOUS multi-colored light up gloves on, and there are people in the audience with them as well. I want a pair. Where can I get them!?

There is a great crowd here tonight, lots of energy in the building. We have some shirtless gentleman with “G O P E R !” on their chest… I have to assume H man is missing.

Ah, he’s back. Looks like it’s the men’s team, which is fantastic.

Rotation 1: Minnesota vault, Illinois bars

Remlinger (MIN): FTY, tiny hop. Piked down ever so slightly but I’ll be the first to admit this isn’t the best angle to tell body position in the air. 9.775

Biondi (ILL): Missed the first half of that, but stuck her dismount. Everyone looked happy with that. 9.775

Sonier (MIN): FTY, piked down a bit. Looked like a little hop on landing. 9.700

Howell (ILL): My view of the bar is blocked slightly. Piked jaeger, nice. pak salto, legs separated a little bit on the handstand after. giant full into a double back dismount, stuck. 9.825

Williams (MIN): HUGE FTY, hop on the landing. She just has so much power. 9.850

Takekawa (ILL):  Beautiful first handstand, but she overshoots her giant full. And I’m not exactly sure what happened there, she held on and then chose to hop off the bar. Chalking up and remounting the bar. Tries the giant full to piked jaeger again, this time falls. Might be having grip issues. Comes over on her handstand on her third attempt on the bars. Bail to handstand, overshoots again and just hops off and salutes. That’s too bad. That was also weird. 6.150

Ramler (MIN): Y1.5, hop forward. Interesting that they switched her with Quarles, but Quarles is definitely the stronger vaulter of the two. 9.875

O’Donnell (ILL): She has beautiful toe point, wow. Jaeger was nice. Bail to handstand good. Short on the final handstand. Giant full to double back dismount. 9.775

Quarles (MIN): Y1.5, landed short and sits it down. 9.300

Powe (ILL): Blind half to jaeger, nice. Bail to handstand, lands right on top of the bar. FTDB dismount, knees barely bent. 9.725

Loper (MIN): Y1.5, looked like the TINIEST hop. Beautiful form in the air as always. People are chanting 10 but I don’t think that landing will allow it. 9.925

Bixler (ILL): Handstands are nice, great deltchev, some form issues but still fun to see. Hop on the dismount.

Quaglia (MIN – EXH): FTY, hop back. She could be in this lineup as well.

Balthazor (ILL – EXH) First part was blocked – but sky high tkatchev, holy wow. FTDB dismount, little hop.

Sales (MIN – EXH): FTY, pikes down a bit, hop back.

Borden (ILL – EXH): Straddle jaeger to overshoot, some leg separation there. Good last hand stand, almost loses it on the giant half. Hop on the dismount

AFTER 1: Minnesota 49.125, Illinois 48.850

That was a mostly solid rotation for both teams, although they each had a major mistake as well. Quarles won’t be happy she sat her vault down, not when she is capable of practically sticking it (and I saw her do some great ones in warmup). But it happens and I know she’ll be just fine next time out. I’m still unsure of what happened to Takekawa on bars, it sounds like it might have been an issue with her grips, but that was so flukey I wouldn’t expect to see it happen again.

Rotation 2: Minnesota bars, Illinois vault

The touch warmup is signaled by the sound of a loon, and if that isn’t the most Minnesotan thing I’ve ever heard I don’t know what is.

Waight (ILL): Yurchenko half, step forward. 9.650

Quaglia (MIN): HEcht mount, nice. Giant half into piked jaeger to overshoot, solid. Great last handstand. Giant full into double back, stuck. That was a great start. 9.750

Howell (ILL): FTY, stuck it looks like. Little low landing but looked good otherwise! 

Willmarth (MIN): Toe on tkatchev, nice. Bail to handstand lands right on top of the bar, beautiful. Little short on her last handstand and has to muscle that stadler a bit but looks like she stuck her double back dismount. 9.725

Takekawa (ILL): FTY, little hop on the landing, looks like she landed slightly sideways? But solid vault.  9.725

Shirtless Gopher mens team are chanting “ONA BANANA!”

Loper (MIN): Maloney to pak, looked good. Last handstand good, giant full to double back dismount good. There are people standing between me and the bars so I can’t see them super well. 9.825

Jones  (ILL): FTY, super low landing – looked like she didn’t get a good block. 9.250

Sales (MIN): Great handstand, bail to handstand very pretty. Holy handstands, batman. Markelov was great. DLO dismount, slight hop. That was sharp. 9.800

Townes (ILL): FTY, good amplitude, small hop. 9.775

Lu (MIN): Maloney to pak, beautiful as always. Great handstand, back up to the high bar. Another great handstand. DLO dismount… almost stuck, but takes a tiny hop back. 9.925

Scott (ILL): Big FTY, hop back. 9.800

Ramler (MIN): Maloney to pak, beautiful as always. Toes crossed a little on the van leeuwen, held that last handstand for an extra beat, stuck FTDB dismount. That was beautiful, but the feet on the van leeuwen could get her. 9.950

Montgomery (MIN – EXH): Hecht mount, giant half to straddle jaeger to overshoot, legs separate there. Short on the last handstand. Giant half to double front dismount, step forward.

Betts (MIN – EXH): Toe on tkatchev, a little low. Bail to handstand, a little shy on that. Giant full into double back, step back.

AFTER 2: Minnesota 98.375, Illinois 97.550

Well that was as season high on bars for the Gophers, but still below what they are capable of scoring (and what they did score last season, with the same lineup). There are little things they can work on cleaning up, and it looks like they are playing with lineup order a bit (Lu and Ramler switched this week, with Ramler moving into the anchor position). Illinois survived that vault rotation without any major errors, just the usual form issues.

Rotation 3: Minnesota beam, Illinois floor

Sonier (MIN): BHS LOSO, solid. Full turn, controlled. Beat jump, leap series good. BHS one armed LOSO, 1.5 dismount, hop forward. 9.800

Scott (ILL): Hello, I am in love with this music. First pass is a front double full, controlled step out. Front full to front layout, clean. Nice switch ring, tour jete half. Rudi to finish, nice. This was a pretty routine 

Lu (MIN): BHS LOSO, balance check but saves it. Cat leap, switch half, little hop and valance check again. Beautiful double turn. Side somi, another balance check. Cartwheel gainer full, stuck. She just seemed a little off from the get go there. 9.725

Howell (ILL): Also great music. Gotta love Britney. Front tuck through to double tuck, takes a couple steps back and goes OOB. Leap series looked good from here. Double pike dismount, landed low but stuck. 9.450

Loper (MIN): BHS LOSO, solid. Front toss to beat jump, good. Switch leap, switch half nice. This is looking good so far, no major bobbles. RO 1.5, we’ll say a college stick, but I don’t think the judges will be fooled by that. 9.850

Waight (ILL): Front tuck through to double back, chest low on the landing. Leap series looked pretty good. Side pass, RO full I think? View was partially blocked. Double pike to finish, lands short. Fun routine. 9.525

Korlin-Downs (MIN): Candle mount, nice. BHS LOSO, controlled. Beat jump, split jump, stag, beautiful. I like that leap series. Full turn was solid. Side aerial to full, hop forward. 9.850

Slight delay here, not sure what’s going on. Looks like it might be about Waights’ score.

Noonan (ILL): Double front to start, kind of falls out of it but keeps it on her feet. Front layout 1.5, nice. Switch ring to tuck 1.5 I think, looked good. Last pass RO 1.5 to front layout, good landing. 9.725

Sales (MIN): BHS LOSO LOSO, tiny balance check but good. Switch switch side, good, way above 180 degrees. Stuck gainer pike dismount. Not quite as clean as last week but still a beautiful routine. 9.900

Biondi (ILL): Clean double pike to start, nice. Front handspring front layout front full, looked good. Leap series was good. Double tuck to finish, stuck. Good routine!

Ramler (MIN): BHS LOSO, her usual. Front aerial to wolf jump, great. She’s smiling, which normally I loath commenting on but its fine here. Beat jump ring jump gorgeous. Nailed her dismount. Honestly that was just as good as last week.  SHE DOES IT AGAIN ITS A 10!!!

Townes (ILL): Gonna be honest, the 10.0 celebration made me miss the first half of this. Standing back tuck, great. This is a fun routine! Front handspring to 1.5, good. She looks happy about that. 

Higgins (MIN – EXH): Candle mount. Beat jump to sheep jump, bobbles a bit on the landing. BHS LOSO, leg comes up on balance check. Switch to switch side was good. Solid dismount. 

Phillips (ILL – EXH): Little short on her leap there. RO front full layout, mostly controlled. Ok this is a fun routine, I am digging this music. Last pass went sideways and had some legs.

Montgomery (MIN – EXH): BHS LOSO, some legs but controlled. Beat jump, straddle side, tuck jump. Punch front, almost loses her balance but stays on. RO 1.5 dismount, hop forward.  

AFTER 3: Minnesota 147.775, Illinois 146.025

Well, Minnesota wasn’t quite as on fire as last week, but they still had a fantastic rotation, capped off by Ramler scoring her second perfect 10. Considering her routine is pretty much identical week after week, I’m guessing we can expect to see a lot more of those in the future now that she’s broken through. I’m not mad about it. Given the reaction from the crowd, no one else is either. Apparently it was the first perfect 10 scored in the Pav, so that is neat .

Illinois had some struggles on floor, performing below their usual standard there. However, I think they may have my favorite lineup of music of any team I’ve watched this year, and their routines are all fun and have some unique tumbling passes which I appreciate.

Rotation 4: Minnesota floor, Illinois beam

Borden (ILL): Front aerial front handspring, split leap. Unique, I like it. Stag jump, nice. Back walkover down to the beam then back up. She is a pretty beam worker. Beat jump to sheep jump, feet a little flexed. Stuck front full dismount. 9.750

Higgins (MIN): Front double full, nice. Pretty leaps. 1.5 to front layout, beautiful. Front handspring to rudi, good. absolutely love her choreography at the end. 9.850

Biondi (ILL): Beautiful mount. BHS LOSO, solid. switch leap, stag jump, feet flexed. Side aerial, nice. Full turn was good. RO 1.5, hop forward. 9.625

Sonier (MIN): Split 3/2 looked a little short. Double pike was great. Leap series was mostly good, looked a little shy of 180 to me. Front 1.5 to front lay, sits it down. Last pass was good. 9.150

Howell (ILL): I am loving the unique mounts from the Illini. Full turn was solid. BHS back pike, good. Switch leap straddle side good. Switch side was solid. Showing off her flexibility there, wow. Good dismount, slight hop. 9.775

Remlinger (MIN): First pass, solid double pike. Excitd for that to turn into the full in she is capable of. Leap series good. RO 1.5 to front lay, good. This music sounds like it could be in Oklahoma’s lineup, it sounds like a techno safari – I heard that on twitter somewhere and don’t remember who said it but credit where credit is due. Double tuck to finish. Good routine. 9.825

Noonan (ILL): BHS LOSO, very solid. Switch leap, breaks the connection just a little into the LOSO with a balance check. Beat jump to stag, good. Cartwheel to gainer full, nice. 9.825

Ramler (MIN): Ring 1/1, just gives me life. Double pike to start, uncontrolled lunge out of it. Switch ring, beautiful. Front handspring to front double full, sits it down. Solid on her final combo pass. Minnesota counting a fall on floor now. 9.025

Scott (ILL): Front toss to back LOSO, good. She has GORGEOUS leaps. Cat leap to front aerial, little balance check. Gainer full dismount, very pretty. 9.875

Loper (MIN): Punch layout to 1.5 instead of her normal double full there. She was warming that up a lot, so I wonder if she was having some issues with it. RO back double full second pass, good. Beautiful Y turn. Final pass1.5 to punch layout good. Clean routine. 9.925

Takekawa (ILL): Side aerial to BHS, beautiful. Leap to gainer LOSO, lovely. BHS stuck gainer full dismount. That was very pretty. 9.875

Williams (MIN): Punch layout front double full, beautiful. Sky high leaps. 1.5 to front lay was good. Rebounded back a bit out of the rudi to finish. 9.825

Exhibition on beam for Illinois but I did not catch the name. BHS LOSO, comes off.

Sales (MIN – EXH): I absolutely love her choreo on this routine. Big double pike to start. Switch ring, leap series nice. Wolf 1/1. Final pass was solid. They redid this routine a bit to make it two passes instead of three.

Balthazor (ILL – EXH): Cat leap switch side, beautiful. Front toss BHS, good. Full turn was nice. Beat jump, straddle half (?)  Stuck gainer pike dismount.

Cronin (MIN – EXH):  double pike, good. Punch layout front layout, fine.

FINAL: Minnesota 196.300, Illinois 195.225

Well, Minnesota still managed to go above 196 with a fall, so that’s something. All in all they looked really strong tonight, save for a couple uncharacteristic falls from Quarles on vault, and Sonier and Ramler on floor. Illinois really pulled it together in the final rotation, they have an absolutely beautiful beam line up and I feel lucky that I could to see it in person.

All Around: Ona Loper (MIN) 39.525
Vault: Ona Loper (MIN): 9.925
Uneven bars: Lexy Ramler (MIN) 9.950
Beam: Lexy Ramler (MIN) 10.0
Floor: Ona Loper (MIN): 9.925

Live blog by Kalley Leer

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