Returning Olympian Thies has seen a lot during her gymnastics career

SALEM, Ore. – It came to be known as Ping Pong Diplomacy, an acknowledgment of the role the sport played in the normalization of relations between two Cold War adversaries in the early 1970s.

It wasn't the only sport, however, that helped thaw an icy chill that then existed between the People's Republic of China and the United States. Urbana native Nancy Thies Marshall can attest to that because she lived it, participating in a historic meeting of the countries' gymnastics teams in May 1973 at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Tate: Of Cubs, Cards and capable UI coaches

– Decatur's Lewis Jackson should have been warned that the outskirts of Monticello is no place to speed. Town scuttlebutt has it that a favorite watering hole, once owned by Dick Butkus' linebacker coach Lou Baker at Illinois, went out of business when town gendarmes took notice that patrons were leaving there in cars when they had no business driving.

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Three titles for gymnasts

MINNEAPOLIS – Paul Ruggeri keeps his first NCAA trophy on a crowded dresser in his apartment room on campus.

"It's overflowing," the Illinois sophomore gymnast said. "There's not much room for anything else."

Men's gymnasts fifth; Ruggeri third

Sophomore third in all-around

MINNEAPOLIS – The Illini didn't send coach Yoshi Hayasaki out with a national championship, but the 33-year Illinois men's gymnastics coach couldn't be more proud of his squad after a fifth-place finish Friday at the NCAA Championships.

UI men make gymnastics final

MINNEAPOLIS – Before it could take aim at a national title, No. 3 Illinois simply had to survive the first cut at the NCAA men's gymnastics meet.

Yoshi Hayasaki's Illini did just that, joining five other teams to advance from Thursday's first two sessions at Minnesota's Sports Pavilion.

Stannard a deserving complement

URBANA – It was hardly a shocker when an Illinois gymnast won the Big Ten pommel horse title in early April.

In Daniel Ribeiro, the Illini not only had the defending conference champion but the nation's top-ranked practitioner of the event.

Tate: Illini arrow pointing up

CHAMPAIGN – Trent Meacham will seek a roster spot, perhaps in Europe, to further his basketball exploits. Derek Walker, Xavier Fulton and various other Illini will try to extend their football careers, perhaps in Canada if necessary. UI golfers and tennis standouts can play their specialties to old age.

Illini Legends, Lists & Lore

Twenty years ago, Illinois' David Zeddies earned the Nissen Award, emblematic of the top male collegiate gymnast. A native of Union Springs, N.Y., he became the Illini's first Nissen Award winner since it was initially presented in 1966. Zeddies combined his marvelous athletic ability with sportsmanship and leadership, and he also was an outstanding scholar. He excelled on the rings and the parallel bars, earning 1988 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year honors and helping lead coach Yoshi Hayasaki's Illini squad to the 1989 NCAA title. Zeddies earned his doctorate at Northwestern University, served at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland. He now is a member of Maryland's Department of Biology in College Park.

Illini drop series opener

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Matt Dittman doubled and drove in two runs, but Illinois lost 4-2 to Michigan on Friday night in Big Ten baseball.

Losing pitcher Phil Haig allowed seven hits in seven innings. Wolverines pitcher Chris Fetter fanned 13.