Bar remains high for gymnasts at nationals
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Justin Spring has seen enough of Big Ten champion Michigan to know that if the Wolverines perform to their capabilities this week, his Illinois men’s gymnastics team won’t hoist its second NCAA title trophy in three years Friday night.
“Michigan has the kind of team like we had in 2012 — which is so deep, so many heavy hitters — and if they have a really good meet, I don’t think anyone can touch them,” the Illini coach said.
— IlliniHQ (@IlliniHQ) April 10, 2014
The NCAA Championships begin Thursday at Crisler Center with two sessions of qualifying for the team and all-around finals.
From Spring’s perspective, a realistic goal for his fifth-ranked Illini would be to finish among the top three in the team competition and to earn one or more individual titles. He concedes that anything less than a national team crown is not the typical measuring stick for his set-the-bar-at-its-highest program.
“We’ve always been a team that has focused on bringing home championship titles,” Spring said. “And I think that can be dangerous a little bit. You have to maximize the people on your team, and that’s the best that you can be, and sometimes you’re not going to win with that.”
Illinois was reminded of that in late March, when it finished fourth at the Big Ten Championships.
“We’ve had to kind of adjust our approach this year and try to win out by simply being the most consistent team (we can be), and wherever we land at the end of the year is where we land,” Spring said. “That can be a little bit difficult for some of the guys that were on the 2012 (NCAA title) team when it’s always been (about) a push for a championship title.
“But I think our team’s (now) in the best shape it’s been all year, and we should have a good showing.”
At Ann Arbor, Mich.
Noon — National Qualifier Session 1 (No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 4 Stanford, No. 5 Illinois, No. 8 Iowa, No. 9 California, No. 12 William & Mary)
6 p.m. — National Qualifier Session 2 (No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 6 Penn State, No. 7 Minnesota, No. 10 Air Force, No. 11 Nebraska)
6 p.m. — Team and all-around finals
6 p.m. — Individual event finals
Online — All sessions will be streamed live at www.ncaa.com; live results at http://www.mgoblue.com/livestats/m-gym
On TV — BTN will carry Friday’s team and all-around finals