Freshmen spark Illinois gymnasts

   MINNEAPOLIS  Riding strong performances from freshmen Travis Romagnoli and Yuval Ayalon, the University of Illinois men''s gymnastics team placed fifth Saturday at the Big Ten Conference meet.

   Its point total should be high enough for the UI to qualify for the NCAA Regionals.

   "It was a very close, very intense competition," UI coach Yoshi Hayasaki said. "There was only a point difference between the third- and sixth-place schools. We did as good as we could at this point."

   In the women''s competition, Illinois placed sixth.

   Romagnoli finished third with 57.55 points in the all-around competition, followed by Ayalon with 57.40.

   Romagnoli qualified for four event finals, which will be held today. He will compete in the floor exercise (9.65), vault (9.65), parallel bars (9.65) and horizontal bar (9.55).

   Ayalon qualified for the event finals in the horizontal bar (9.725).

   Also competing today: Greg McGlaun, who scored 9.6 in the vault.

   Illinois scored 227.2 points, 25 behind fourth-place Minnesota. Ohio State won the meet, Iowa finishing second and Penn State third.

   The UI women wound up with 194.075 points.

   Michigan won the meet.

   Illini Kim Berres finished fourth on the balance beam with a score of 9.925.

   In the all-around competition, Carmella Fernandez finished 14th at 38.525.

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