CHAMPAIGN – Sunday''s individual event finals at the NCAA Men''s Gymnastics Championships represented a chance for the Illini to go out in glory at the Assembly Hall.
But Illinois coach Yoshi Hayasaki couldn''t have imagined this type of glory.
CHAMPAIGN – For the past month, it was as if Illinois'' men''s gymnastics team were writing the script and sending it to the printer.
The Illini were ranked No. 1 in the country. They got to host the Big Ten Championships and promptly took the team title. This weekend, they had the opportunity to host the NCAA Championships, and on the most important day of the season, they posted a school-record score of 222.225 in Saturday''s team finals.
TUCSON, Ariz. – Illinois freshman Cara Pomeroy picked a perfect time to record the first 10.0 in school history.
Pomeroy''s perfect score on the uneven bars at Saturday''s South Central Regional Championships qualified her for the NCAA Championships. She and junior teammate Ashley Williams, who qualified with an all-around total of 39.275, will compete at the national meet April 15-17 in Los Angeles.
CHAMPAIGN – Remember Kerri Strug''s performance for the U.S. women''s gymnastics team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics?
Illinois'' Erik Garnett did his best Strug impersonation Saturday at the NCAA Men''s Gymnastics Championships.
CHAMPAIGN – Illinois wasn''t the only powerhouse that struggled to reach tonight''s team finals.
Two-time defending champion Oklahoma had a closer scare than the top-ranked Illini, earning the last of three qualifying spots from Friday''s afternoon session at the Assembly Hall.
CHAMPAIGN – While some of their fans were biting their fingernails to the bone, the Illinois men''s gymnastics competitors were taking a deep breath and relaxing.
The top-ranked Illini advanced to tonight''s team finals at the NCAA Championships, but only after a few anxious moments – even if they were experienced mostly by the folks in the Assembly Hall stands.
CHAMPAIGN – When your name is Peter Shostchuk, you ask people to pronounce it quickly and not worry about it.
But his name would have been Mud – at least in his own mind – if he didn''t come through Friday night at the Assembly Hall.
CHAMPAIGN – When Miles Avery walked into the Assembly Hall on Wednesday afternoon, his jaw dropped to the floor.
"I was blown away," the Ohio State men''s gymnastics coach said. "The place looked awesome."
CHAMPAIGN – His life''s work is a sport defined by its acrobatic twists and turns. Appropriate, perhaps, given the sudden and unexpected change of direction Yoshi Hayasaki''s own life took in 1965.
If not for the fortunate intersection that year of an American coach on sabbatical in Tokyo and the emergence of a talented, young Japanese gymnast, Hayasaki likely still would be living in his Far East homeland.
CHAMPAIGN – Illinois'' men''s gymnastics team is ranked No. 1 heading into this weekend''s NCAA Championships at the Assembly Hall, but that doesn''t mean the Illini feel the pressure of being expected to come out No. 1.
They have Oklahoma to thank for that.