Gymnastics looks to ‘break some records’


Senior gymnast Natasha Jufko performs on the balance beam vs. Western Michigan Feb. 1 at Victor E. Court. Jufko will be the Huskies’ beam specialist at the MAC Championships 2 p.m. Saturday in Ypsilanti, Mich.

By Steve Shonder

With one last meet left in the season, gymnastics is looking to build off a recent hot streak to carry it to the first MAC Championship victory in the program’s history.

The Huskies will travel to Ypsilanti, Mich., for the MAC Championship at 1 p.m. Saturday at the EMU Convocation Center. They will look to dethrone No. 18 Central Michigan, which has won the last four MAC Championships; the Chippewas tied Western Michigan for first at last year’s meet.

Head coach Sam Morreale said his team will be up to the challenge as the Huskies have been mentally preparing for this all season.

“We always try to up the ante mentally, try to pressure them a little bit more, ask them to pressure themselves,” Morreale said. “The good thing for us this year is we’ve been in a couple different environments that are very similar to what the [MAC] Championships are going to be, so we’ve actually had some experience.”

Being prepared is one thing; executing on that preparation is another. The Huskies will look to get another crack at MAC heavyweights Kent State and No. 18 Central Michigan, which beat NIU Feb. 7 and March 2, respectively. Senior Kim Gotlund, who was named to the 2014 All-MAC Gymnastics First Team, said the team’s recent performances have it right where it wants to be.

“I think we’re going in with a lot of confidence,” Gotlund said. “As long as we stick to the plan and do what we’ve been doing the last two meets, I think we have a really good chance.”

NIU has been on a tear in its last two meets, scoring above 195 in both, including in a win at Eastern Michigan, where the championships are being held. Given that the Huskies have some positive experience with EMU’s equipment and facilities, freshman Megan Gilliam expects that that experience at EMU will bode well for them.

“Since we’ve already been on the equipment, we already know how our bodies will adjust to it,” Gilliam said. “I think that gives us an advantage just because we’re already comfortable with it.”

In their last meet against Arizona State on March 15, the Huskies got strong performances across the board, including a 9.85 from sophomore Jaelyn Olsen on vault and beam. They’ll also expect a lot from seniors Natasha Jufko, Gotlund and Megan Melendez, who will look to make one last splash in their careers.

Right now, the biggest goal for the Huskies is breaking a school record at the meet. Gotlund said hitting a school record would be a great way to end the season.

“We see the records up on the board every single day, so it’s really a good motivation,” Gotlund said. “We’re right there. In the meets where we’ve scored in the 195s we still had some mistakes we can fix. So, I think if we all have a really on day there’s a good chance we can break some records this weekend.”