Claire Gagliardi competes on floor for Ohio State.

LIVE BLOG: No. 14 Ohio State at No. 22 Illinois

The Buckeyes are on fire in 2023. Ohio State has already put up two mid-197s, including a program second-best 197.575 last week at home. Former five-star recruit Payton Harris has become an instrumental all-arounder, but the progression is also due to improved gymnastics from returners, like senior Ella Hodges who nabbed a career-best 9.925 on floor last week.

Road scores for the Buckeyes have trended lower, in the low- to mid-196s. That could be a rankings problem in a few weeks when we switch to NQS, which makes today a very important meet. Meredith Paulicivic’s squad should be looking for a 197.

Illinois has had some strong outings this year, especially at home. It arrives in Huff Hall on the back end of a double-meet weekend that was added to the calendar pretty last minute: Illinois joined the Metroplex lineup after the New York invitational later this month was cancelled. This will be the Illini’s first double-meet weekend of the year, so only time will tell how fatigue will play in tonight. It’s already a weird one, too, since it’s a somewhat late start on a Monday.

The Mias—Takekawa and Townes, who are fresh off of individual national championship appearances—have continued to lead the way this year. Newcomers Tali Joelson, Alea Byrne and Arielle Ward have been lineup staples. Makayla Green has been just out of lineups, and chances are we’ll see her on bars here tonight.

Rotation 1: Illinois vault, Ohio State bars

Mueller (UIUC): Yfull, great distance, small hop back. 9.8

Pritchard (tOSU): Short hanstand. Toe hand to Gienger immediate bail, leg separation on the bail. Blind full, loose back to double tuck, hop back. 9.775

Takekawa (UIUC): She’ll be doing AA today. Yfull, little short, had to hop forward. Her feet hit the directional line on the hop. 9.675, that seems fair for how low she came in.

Harris (tOSU): Ray, huge! Good catching position. Toe hand to bail hand, the tiniest leg separation on the catch. Blind full double tuck, step back. 9.825

Waight (UIUC): Yhalf, good body position, big hop forward. 9.725

Edwards (tOSU): Toe hand to floated Maloney, leg sep on the back swing. Leg sep on her Pak. Blind full, good, double tuck, hop back. 9.825

Fitzgibbon (UIUC): Yfull, big pike down and a big hop back. Not a lot of height off the table. 9.725

Vetter (tOSU): Blind full to big Tkatchev, some soft knees and lack of turnover. Bail hand slightly off balance but she pulled it back. FTDB, small hop. 9.825

Townes (UIUC): Y1.5, slight hip angle and soft knees, small hop on the landing. 9.9

Riccardi (tOSU): She can get a huge score when she’s on. Toe hand to Ray, really lovely, great Pak. Tiniest bit late on her half pirouette. Stalder to double tuck true stick. That’s a good one! 9.9

Nataraj (UIUC): Debuted her Y1.5 at Metroplex, we’ll see what she throws today. Y1.5, she does it! Little forward on the landing and hopes, soft knees in the last half. 9.925, that’s a bit generous, putting her last is smart. Okay this is now a 9.875, which makes much more sense. Can I just not read? Possible. It IS Monday night.

Miller (tOSU): Toe hand to Maloney, great back swing, tiny leg separation on the bail hand. DLO, small step forward, tries to cover by saluting, we’ll see what the judges do. 9.85

Byrne (UIUC, ex.): Yfull, hip angle throughout the post flight, small step on landing. 9.725

Mintz (tOSU, ex.): Blind to Jaeger, took it out too far and fell. Pak, big leg sep and caught very close shouldered, had to take an extra glide swing. FTDB, hop back. 8.5

After 1: Ohio State 49.175, Illinois 49.075

The Buckeyes were a little hoppy, which held them back from the stratospheric scores they can hit on bars, but it wasn’t a bad rotation by any means. Illinois is looking sharper and sharper on vault landings every week, slowly getting there. There are some execution things in the air still to fix, but a number over 49 on vault is a win for the Illini.

Rotation 2: Illinois bars, Ohio State vault

Vetter (tOSU): HIGH Yfull, small hop back. 9.825

Borden (UIUC): Hop change. Jaeger immediate bail, clean throughout, little off kilter on the Jaeger. Blind to rudi, little short on the rotation but true stick. One of her better sets! 9.8

Malas (tOSU): Yfull, big hop back, great amplitude. 9.75

Mueller (UIUC): Blind to Jaeger, little soft knees on her catch. Slightly short on the bail hand. DLO small hop back. 9.775

Riccardi (tOSU): Yfull, slightly bent arms on the table, small hop. Okay, on replay her arms looked straight. 9.8

Ewald (UIUC): Blind to Jaeger, caught close. Pak to short half pirouette. Good last handstand. FTDB, hop back. 9.8

Jennings (tOSU): Yfull, flaired it, was just back on her heels and turned to salute. Never showed full control, but best in the air from either team. 9.875

Mizuki (UIUC): Blind pike Jaeger, good catch. Bail hand, she’s hitting handstands well. Blind full touch late double tuck, shuffled one foot back. 9.875

Harris (tOSU): Y1.5, soft knees, true stick? Came up on her toes in slow mo. 9.950, not mad.

O’Donnell (UIUC): Blind to Jaeger immediate bail, really clean. She has great lines. Blind full late to double tuck, step. 9.825

Edwards (tOSU): Yfull, SO bit, small hop back today, but she can be perfect on that. 9.85, just the hop.

Takekawa (UIUC): Blind to pike Jaeger, really clean on that today. Bail hand, she’s hitting fully vertical on these. DLO hop forward. 9.875

Mintz (tOSU, ex.): Yfull, way back on the table, good distance and a hop back. 9.75

Knight (UIUC, ex.): Toe hand to Ray, almost came off, has to take extra swings into a bail. Blind full double tuck stuck. 8.95

After 2: Ohio State 98.475, Illinois 98.200

Ohio State pulled a little further away on the heels of really lovely vaults. The landings are just not quite there today, but the Buckeyes are so clean in the air. Their open hips and amlitude really shine. Illinois was also a little hop/steppy on bars, which was the difference between this good rotation and the great one the Illini are capable of. Handstands are mostly spot on, and the releases were largely clean, both good signs in February.

Rotation 3: Illinois beam, Ohio State floor

Knight (UIUC): Candle mount. Switch to split, clean if not quite in over splits. Steady side aerial bhs. Beat to side somi, big arm circles, can’t say on. Fall. Gainer full off the side, stuck. Pressure’s on now. 9.1

Gonzalez (tOSU): Clean double pike, really showed off the lunge. Front lay front full, good amplitude, clean landing. Switch side half straddle, little imprecise in that rotation. RO 3/2 front lay, good landing, low on the lay. 9.775

Mizuki (UIUC): Tough position to be in here, but she looks calm and collected on the beam. Bhs loso, solid. Switch to straddle 1/4, one arm circle backward. Cat to side aerial, medium check. Clean through jumps. Gainer pike off the end, stuck. Just got a little nervy in there, but good reset. 9.8

Vetter (tOSU): Big double tuck, good control in the landing even after coming in pretty fast. Tour jete half Popa Popa, really nice, better rotation that the two Popas have sometimes in NCAA. Front lay to rudi, soft knees on the twist, good lunge. 9.85

Mueller (UIUC): In last second for Byrne. Slightly off kilter on her full turn, maybe .05 there. Bhs loso, check. She just isn’t fully settling into her skills. Switch switch, low back leg. on the second. Beat to front toss, better there. RO 3/2 stuck. 9.775

Harris (tOSU): She was NAILING landings in one touch. Double pike, yep nailed it here too. Switch side Popa, just a bit over on the first. FHS 2/1 to stag, good, didn’t let the jump get out of control. FHS front 1/1 front lay, another good landing, maybe a bit low height-wise. 9.85

Townes (UIUC): I believe the MAG team is shirtless in the stands, that explains how loud it is in Huff! Switch to straddle 1/4, nice splits, just lacking some toe point in the switch. Cat to front toss, shoulders were a little off line but she didn’t move at all. Bhs loso, bent arms in the bhs and again just a bit off in her shoulders but covered well. RO tuck 3/2, true stick. Illinois has sticky feet! 9.925

Gagliardi (tOSU): Front lay rudi double stag, missed the punch into her rudi a bit so it was a little low, but otherwise clean. Switch side Popa, nice. Double pike, little short, came forward in the lunge. 9.875

Nataraj (UIUC): She is so quick on the beam. Bhs loso, really clean, great extension in her legs. Switch to straddle 1/4, steady there. Beat to front aerial, again so steady. Check on her full turn. RO 3/2 hop forward. 9.8

Edwards (tOSU): She has been nearly perfect here this year. HUGE double pike, lunged forward, she seemed a little off balance but it was light. RO 3/2 front lay, she does that so well every time. Switch side Popa, good. Double tuck, that’s the landing she was looking for. 9.9

Takekawa (UIUC): If you need a beam hit to close out a rotation, Takekawa is the person you want on the beam. She owns the only two 10.0s in program history here. Step back on her side aerial bhs. Switch to straddle 1/4, good extension. Bhs gainer full step back. Not perfect today, but the Illini survive beam! 9.725

Hodges (tOSU): Double pike, no deductions on that landing, she really emphasized it. Tour jete half Popa Popa, got a little off balance in the air on the first Popa, swung her arms, but that’s a small deduction if the judges take it. FHS rudi loso, really high on the loso, arched it a bit. 9.925

Green (UIUC, ex.): Bhs loso, soft knees in the bhs but good landing. Clean switch to straddle 1/4, Illinois really has that leap series down. Beat to side aerial, check. RO 3/2 hop forward. 9.725

Riccardi (tOSU, ex.): Her first ever floor routine for the Buckeyes! Double pike, slid back in the lunge. Tour jete half Popa, nice there. RO 3/2 misses her punch into a punch front, sits it. Her knees seem fine, but that kind of fall always makes me nervous. Low double tuck, bounds forward.

After 3: Ohio State 147.875, Illinois 147.225

The Buckeyes are on track for a high 196, which would be a great road number for their first calculable NQS. Illinois is a little shaky today, and lineups really seem to be changing last minute. Could just be fatigue from a long double meet weekend and traveling to and from Texas. The Illini can be great on floor, and should close out strong.

Hi folks, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, if I am, but since we’re talking Big Ten here, check in on your Michigan State friends. There was a shooting on the campus.

Rotation 4: Illinois floor, Ohio State beam

Pritchard (tOSU): Hitch kick to side aerial, good. Bhs loso, low on the loso, breaks at the hips. Switch low back leg to good straddle quarter. RO 3/2, off balance and steps to the side. 9.675

Takekawa (UIUC): Not sure why we’re having a long wait for the leadoff. Music issue perhaps? OK here we go. Rudi to split jump, controlled the split much better than sometimes. Double pike, chest was a bit low, big lunge. Switch side to split full. RO 3/2 front lay, just doesn’t get the punch on her lay, arches it around but falls. 9.2

Hankins (tOSU): Bhs loso, does two arm swings but brings it back. Front toss, medium check there too. Just nervy. Switch to split 1/4, good there. RO 2/1 small hop back. 9.625

Waight (UIUC): Little bit of pressure here now. Double pike, hops into her lunge. RO 3/2 front lay, great execution on the twist. Wolf full to switch full, really short of 180. Double tuck, chest was forward, and she lunged forward. 9.775

Harris (tOSU): Buckeyes really need a hit here. Pressure for a freshman, even one as good as Harris. Valdez to open. Switch to straddle 1/4, clean. She does a good job of emphasizing her control. Front aerial back tuck, bit short and some foot form. RO 2/1, stuck. There we go! 9.85

Ewald (UIUC): Late addition to the lineup, that was the holdup before Takekawa. FHS 2/1, twisted right into the ground but kept the landing clean. FHS rudi loso, low on the loso but sold it in the lunge. Switch side Popa was clean. FHS front full front lay, good there. 9.875, Illinois needed that!

Jennings (tOSU): BHs side aerial, smallest check. Split to straddle 1/2, leg up but she pulled it right back. Cartwheel gainer full step back. 9.75

Nataraj (UIUC): Full-in, that’s a new addition this weekend. Textbook landing. Clean in her leaps, maybe some soft knees but the camera was at a tough angle. Front lay front full, didn’t really get the amplitude in the full but landed well. 9.925, what a day for Nataraj!

Vetter (tOSU): Only her second beam outing this year, but she can be stellar. 9.925 last week. Bhs loso, no deductions. Side aerial, dropped her chest to the side. Switch to straddle 1/4, good there. RO 2/1, deep in her knees. 9.75

Mueller (UIUC): Double pike, shoots back very far, managed to stay in bounds. That’s a .3 hop. Clean combo pass and leaps. Little low chest on her double tuck. 9.85? Did the hop look bigger on TV?

Hodges (tOSU): Buckeyes are already at a 196.525 with a low score to drop. Lovely on her switch to straddle 3/4. Bhs loso, small check. Full turn was actually in releve. Sanding gainer loso, fun to hear Karas commentate on that after doing the switch leg standing loso during her career. RO 3/2 true stick. 9.925

Townes (UIUC): FHS 2/1, very controlled on her landing. RO 3/2 front 1/1, clean there, good twisting form. Nice tour jete half Popa to close. Great set! 9.95

Oliveros (tOSU, ex.): Press mount, gorgeous as always. Front aerial bhs, clean. Cat to switch side, check. Side aerial to beat. Gainer pike, step back. 9.65

Fitzgibbon (UIUC, ex.): Front lay rudi, clean. Couldn’t really see her leaps on the TV angle, but Karas said they were nice. High double pike, slid her front foot. 9.825

FINAL: Ohio State 196.825, Illinois 196.600

Now that is the road number the Buckeyes needed. Mission accomplished. Illinois also proved it can come back from some tough routines and put up a really solid number. A good meet all around with room to grow top to bottom. Exactly what you want to see midseason.

VT: Harris, 9.950
UB: Riccardi, 9.900
BB: Townes, Hodges, 9.925
FX: Townes, 9.950
AA: Harris 39.475

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Live blog by Emily Minehart

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