CHAMPAIGN – Twenty-four hours later, Justin Spring had another narrow defeat.
One day after losing the all-around title to Ohio State''s Randy Monahan by 0.075, Spring lost out on Big Ten Gymnast of the Year honors to the Buckeye junior.
Voting totals weren''t revealed, but logic suggests Spring was the only other viable candidate. The award, voted on by coaches, goes to the gymnast with the best finishes in the all-around and individual event competitions. Monahan was third in the floor exercise, tied for fourth in the still rings, was fifth on the high bar and scratched out of the parallel bars.
Spring won the floor exercise, took second on the high bar and was ninth on the parallel bars.
The latter event was the most disappointing for Spring, ranked first nationally. By draw, he had to compete on the parallel bars a few minutes after finishing his high bar routine.
"I was so tired," he said. "I get off the high bar, put my grips away, put my wrist guard on, and by the time I''m back to the parallel bars (the announcer says) ''Next up on parallel bars: Justin Spring.'' I''m like, ''Are you serious?'' The judges were waiting, (but) I took an extra five seconds because I was still breathing hard from high bar."
Shortly into the routine, Spring lost his balance and eventually came off.
"I hit that first sequence, and then my arms said, ''We''re done.'' They gave up on me," Spring said. "That''s OK, though. It won''t be like that at nationals."
Illinois coach Yoshi Hayasaki said Spring''s parallel bar snafu likely cost him Gymnast of the Year.
"Nothing to knock Randy because he''s been super," Hayasaki said. "But at the same time, I feel Justin Spring is just as deserving. But he''s young, and he''s going to have more opportunities coming."
David Zeddies (1988) and Travis Romagnoli (1998) are the only UI gymnasts to win the award.
Spring and junior Ben Newman represented Illinois on the nine-member all-conference team. They joined Monahan, Penn State''s Chad Buczek, Kevin Tan and Luis Vargas, Minnesota''s Guillermo Alvarez, Ohio State''s Ronald Ferris and Michigan''s Andrew DiGiore.
Tan won the still rings for the second straight year and also captured the parallel bars. DiGiore took the vault for the second time and Ferris won high bar.
Hayasaki was named Coach of the Year for the third time, the first since 1989.
"I get credit today, but I think it''s everybody," Hayasaki said. "My assistant coaches (Jon Valdez and Bob Spelic) work very hard, all the staff, all the gymnasts. That''s what it''s all about."
Minnesota''s Jacob Lee was Freshman of the Year.
Hayasaki was pleased with his team''s weekend performance, and the team''s next goal is in two weeks in the NCAA championships at the Assembly Hall.
"It''s something we''re building for the next two weeks, and I think it''s really starting to come around," he said. "The more routines they perform in front of the people, the more confident they become. I think it''s really boosted everybody''s confidence level."