Third''s the word for UI in team competition

Third''s the word for UI in team competition

WEST POINT, N.Y. – Justin Spring earned All-America honors in the all-around Friday, but the Illinois men''s gymnastics team had to settle for third place in the team competition at the NCAA championships.

Spring scored a career-high 9.9 in the high bar en route to a 55.25 all-around total, good for sixth place overall. He advanced to today''s individual finals on the bar as well as the parallel bars, one of five Illini to compete for individual gold.

"Justin had a high ankle sprain all year, and just recently he''s started to come back," UI coach Yoshi Hayasaki said. "He had a tremendous final three events, and that really lifted us."

Junior Adam Pummer will compete in four events (floor, vault, parallel bars, high bar), senior Peter Shostchuk made the finals in the pommel horse, freshman Chris Silcox in the vault and Tyler Yamauchi on the rings.

The Illini, who had the top qualifying score Thursday at 225.25, exceeded their season average on four of five events on their way to a 223.75 Friday. But that total was topped by Oklahoma''s 225.675 and Big Ten champion Ohio State''s 225.45.

"You have to be perfect to win a national championship," Hayasaki said, "and we weren''t."

The pommel horse, normally one of Illinois'' strongest events, gave the Illini fits Friday night. Shostchuk''s 9.45 and Wes Haagensen''s 9.15 helped the Illini salvage a 35.975 total – their worst in any event by more than a point.

"We had a horrendous start in floor exercise and pommel horse," Hayasaki said. "Pommel horse has been our rock this year, and today it wasn''t so.

"After that, we came back once again with tremendous courage, and it was amazing how we did it again in the vault, parallel bars and high bar."