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 – 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 – 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 – 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.
The top three individuals in each event, as ranked by their National Qualifying Average, a formula that incorporates regular season and conference meet scores:
Illinois senior Bob Rogers has been named a finalist for the Nissen-Emery Award, presented to the top collegiate senior gymnast each year.
The Illinois men''s basketball team isn''t the only squad heading to a regional soon. The UI women''s gymnastics team, led by coach Bob Starkell, earned a bid to the South Central Regional in Tucson, Ariz.
The invitation to the April 3 event, which was announced Monday, is the first under Starkell, who is in his fifth season at the school.
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.