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Illini Men’s Gymnastics Registers School Records Against Air Force, California

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USAFA, Colo. – Illinois Men’s Gymnastics had a record day on the Air Force Academy base, racking up a school-record team score of 442.300 en route to victories over Air Force and California. The Orange and Blue’s stellar effort was headlined by a team mark of 76.150 on the pommel horse, the best mark across the NCAA this season and the second-best score ever recorded in the NCAA. Additionally, 12 Illini career best scores fell on the day.

The Fighting Illini improved to 17-16 all-time against California and are now 14-1 all-time against Air Force. UI improved its 2016 record to 12-3 with the tri-meet victory.

Logo Illinois Fighting Illini 1000x1000

Thumbnail Photo is Courtesy of Illinois Athletics

“Today was a good meet, we kind of had a test of resilience; we had a couple mistakes but we bounced back quickly,” shared Illinois head coach Justin Spring. “We didn’t let any major fault come over the team at any time and then obviously had some break out events. Horse obviously stands out tremendously, with five guys hitting cumulatively at the right time to almost break an NCAA record; that was exciting.”

Opening the afternoon on the still rings, the Fighting Illini put up their second-best team mark of the season with a combined 74.400. Alex Diab led the effort with an Illinois season-high 15.450 for a second place finish. Dennis Minton posted the next best mark for the Orange and Blue, scoring a 14.850 to tie for fifth in the competition. Additionally, Bobby Baker added a 14.800.

Leading the Illini on floor was again Diab, who posted a 15.400 to help the team to a combined effort of 72.550. The mark was a career best for the freshman and was enough for second place on the day. Baker added a 14.800 for the second-best Illinois score as an all-arounder to tie for fifth. Matt Foster contributed a 14.700, a season-best.

The Illinois pommel horse crew had a record-breaking day, posting the best team score the NCAA has seen this season with a 76.150, the second-best score recorded in NCAA history and a school record. Leading the pack was Illini sophomore Brandon Ngai, who secured his sixth-career title in his sixth-consecutive meet with a score of 15.550. Four Illini gymnasts posted readings above 15.0 on the event. Foster finished with a third place score of 15.300 while Baker added a 15.250 and Logan Bradley contributed a 15.200 for fifth and sixth place, respectively.

“We had five big hits and that’s all it takes,” stated Spring. “We’ve been waiting for our first guy to step up and start the team off right. I think Foster, Logan and Brandon have all been doing their job, Bobby has gotten back on track, so that’s a huge extra guy right there and then Tom stepped up and started us off great. I think it really stemmed from him [Tom] doing his job and the rest of the guys just steamrolled. This is an event that we need to continue to be outstanding on because it will get us some points on other teams at future events.”

Next on the high bar, the Orange and Blue turned in a team score of 72.400. Diab led the efforts with a career-best 15.150 for a second place finish. Max Mayr added a 14.650 on the event to finish fifth on the event. Chandler Eggleston’s 14.300 earned him a share of seventh place on the day.

UI continued its record-breaking day on vault next. The Fighting Illini posted the fourth-best team score on the event in program history, registering a 74.100 reading. Baker won his first title of the day on the event with a career high of 15.300. Eggleston was just behind in second place with a 15.050. Diab added a 14.900 for a fourth place finish.

Illinois finished the meet strong, needing just a 70.400 on parallel bars to join the 440 club on the season. The Illini combined for a 72.700, their second-best score on the event this season. Again leading the way was Baker, who captured the event crown with a score of 15.050 on the apparatus. Taking home second place was Mayr, who turned in a reading of 14.900, a career high.

Baker secured his third title of the afternoon with an all-around reading of 89.450, one of the top scores in the nation this season. Diab finished a close second with a career-high 88.400.

“The bigger picture for me is looking at still our future potential,” said Spring. “There are still a lot of place to increase our team score even more.”

LOOKING AHEAD

Upon return from Colorado, the Fighting Illini will close the season with a pair of home meets at Huff Hall. UI will host Michigan on Saturday, March 12, at 4 p.m. The following weekend, defending National Champion, Oklahoma, comes to town for Illini “Senior Day” and the regular season finale.

EVENT WINNERS

Pommel horse – Brandon Ngai – 15.550

Vault – Bobby Baker – 15.300

Parallel bars – Bobby Baker – 15.050

All-Around – Bobby Baker – 89.450

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