The Illini finished third in their session Thursday and reached Friday's finals.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — You can’t win a gymnastics title on the first day of the NCAA Championships, but you certainly can lose one.
Fortunately for Illinois, it still has a shot at the national crown.
Coach Justin Spring’s team placed third in the Session I Qualifier on Thursday to reach the finals for the 12th consecutive year.
“I think (Thursday) was indicative of how this season has been,” Spring said after his squad finished behind Oklahoma (440.000) and Stanford (433.550), totaling 432.850. “We had 67 hit percent ratio, which fortunately was enough to get us in to finals. I speak for the team and the coaches when I say that we expect to be and should be better (Friday).”
Iowa (425.950), California (425.700) and William & Mary (415.350) also competed but did not advance.
The Sooners, Cardinal and Illini moved on from Thursday’s opening session. Three Big Ten teams qualified out of the second session Thursday night.
Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State were the top three finishers from the Session II Qualifier.
The six teams will compete for the national title at 6 p.m. Friday at Crisler Center.
The Illini started their session on floor exercise, finishing with a 71.900. UI freshman Chandler Eggleston tied for fifth at 15.250 and was followed by teammate C.J. Maestas (15.200), who tied for seventh.
In pommel horse, Illinois posted its second-highest score of the season, 72.050. UI senior Chad Mason finished second at 15.100. Teammate Matt Foster earned fourth at 14.900.
The Illini’s third rotation was still rings, and the team scored 74.350. Maestas earned third at 15.450. Teammates Mike Wilner (15.200) and Max Mayr (14.700) were fifth and ninth, respectively.
Eggleston was second in the vault (15.200), and Illinois totaled 72.200. UI senior Alex Varga (14.550) earned 16th.
Jordan Valdez placed second on parallel bars (15.200), and the Illini scored 71.800. Mayr registered his second-best score of the season, posting a 14.500 for 15th.
Valdez also finished second on high bar (15.200), leading Illinois to a 70.550. Maestas’ season high of 14.900 was good for third.
Maestas placed third in the all-around, totaling 86.150.