Gymnasts soar past old marks

By Kari Brackett

When NIU men’s gymnastics coach Chuck Ehrlich said he wanted his team to improve in its consistency, he got even more than what he asked for.

Although the Huskies (2-2) lost to Ohio State (4-0) 282.25-279.80 on Saturday, NIU set an all-time school record. The previous dual-meet record of 277.40 was set on Feb. 4, 1983, against Illinois.

Ehrlich jokingly said he would like his team to go to 281 and wake the nation up. Well, he almost got his wish Sunday. The new record was in the books for only 18 hours before the Huskies rewrote the story. NIU set a new record in its 280.0-271.40 win over Southern Illinois.

“It feels great,” Ehrlich said about his team’s record-breaking weekend. “We’ve broken 280—we’ve broken the ice. We are the best-kept secret NIU has.”

Not only was a team record set, but an all-around score also became a new high. Carlos Fulcher’s 57.15 all-around mark on Saturday surpassed the previous standard of 56.65 by Tom Kennedy versus U of I on Feb. 4, 1983. It also betters Kennedy’s tally of 57.45 set in exhibition competition against the Soviet National Team at DeKalb in Dec. 1982.

Ehrlich’s prediction of a tight match against OSU, ranked fifth in the nation, was not far off. Both teams were neck-and-neck, yet the Buckeyes always seemed to be a step ahead of the Huskies. The one event NIU did capture over OSU was the parallel bars. The Huskies tallied 47.15 compared to the Buckeyes 46.75.

“The two big losses for us were our high bar and floor exercise,” Ehrlich said. “We don’t have to do more on the floor, we just have to be more consistent.”

Fulcher tied with OSU’s Gil Pinto for the blue ribbon in the all-around. Buckeye Mike Racaneli finished second with 56.95 followed by NIU’s Thomas Koll, who tallied 56.05.

While many fans expressed anger over low scores by judges, Ehrlich did not find fault with the judgments. Ehrlich said he actually thought the judging was tighter in the SIU match.

“I can’t say I’m disappointed in the scores,” Ehrlich said. “When we make a mistake, we open the door. We’ve got to learn not to open the door.”

NIU did not have many problems with the Salukis. The closest scoring event came in the pommel horse, when the Huskies tallied 46.75 points while SIU scored 46.40. All three top spots in the all-around were filled by NIU. Fulcher took the number-one place with 56.95. Jens Furst’s 56.15 finish gave him the second spot and Koll took third with 55.60.

“We are a good national, competitive team,” Ehrlich said. “I wish the student body knew we had a national team.”