NORMAN, Okla. – The fifth-ranked Illinois men’s gymnastics team advanced to the championship session for the 14th time in the last 15 years after placing third in the morning prelim session with a 406,691. It was the third highest score posted by the Illini this season. Illinois finished behind defending national champion Stanford (426,325) and No. 4 Nebraska (411,388). The NCAA Championship Finals will take place at 6 pm CT on Saturday. Saturday’s night’s session will crown the team and individual event champions, and determine All-America honors.
“I’m excited for the guys. After coming off Big Tens where we didn’t perform to our potential, this was a good step in the right direction,” head coach Justin Spring said. “Tomorrow, we get to lay it all on the line. What is encouraging about today is that we still have room for improvement. We played it safe in the lineup, looking for hits. We are capable of more on high bar and pommel horse . I look forward to a nothing-to-lose attitude tomorrow with the best scoring potential guys competing.”
Illinois started strong on floor exercise with a 69.132, behind a 14.20 score by senior Clay Mason Stephens, good for fourth-best in the session. Junior Dylan Kolak posted a career best 14,033, tied for seventh. The team score was the second-best of the morning session behind Stanford.
In the second rotation, the team counted two falls on pommel horse, registering a 64,099. David Pochinka posted the team’s best score on the apparatus with a 13.40.
The still rings rotation was strong with the Illini scoring the meet’s second-best score of 67.943. Grad student and reigning Big Ten rings champ Ashton Anaya led the team with a 14,033, the best non-Stanford score of the day. Freshman Yan Inhaber-Courchesne scored a career-best 13.70.
The Illini posted a 70-plus score on vault with a 70,264 led by Hamish Carter’s 14,366 ducks Evan Manivong’s 14,233.
Illinois’ parallel bar performance came just short of their best score of the season with a 69,465 and was the second highest in the first session. The team started parallel bars with four straight sticks from Michael Fletcher, Jordan Kovach, Will Hauke and Pochinka. Fletcher’s 14.40 was good for third and Hauke’s 14.233 was the fifth-best score. Both career bests for gymnasts.
In the final rotation, Manivong posted a career-best 13.70, fifth best in the session.
HOW IT HAPPENED
*denotes career best
With the third highest qualifying score of the afternoon session, the Fighting Illini will advance to the championship meet for the 14th time in the last 15 years.
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