Gymnastics topples Western Michigan


By Steve Shonder

Gymnastics continued its home dominance with another win this weekend.

The Huskies (2-1, 2-0 MAC) beat the Western Michigan Broncos (0-4, 0-3 MAC) 192.450-191.6 on Saturday. NIU won three of the four events. In the last two seasons, NIU is 6-1 at home.

Head coach Sam Morreale said he was impressed with the team’s overall performance.

“They just kept fighting,” Morreale said. “They kept digging down. We saw a lot of things like we see in practice. That’s what we want to do in here.

“A lot of the new kids got some opportunities, and it’s good to see them step in and do well.”

On vault, the Huskies won 48.325- 48.275. Sophomore Jaelyn Olsen led the scoring with a 9.8. Olsen has now won vault two weeks in a row. Freshman Megan Gilliam scored a career-high 9.7. Western Michigan greatly improved its work on vault. Three gymnasts scored a 9.7 or higher.

The uneven bars were a struggle for both teams. Each team had two gymnasts fall during the event. Western Michigan freshman Jessie Peszek led all scoring with a 9.7. Kim Gotlund led NIU with a 9.675. Bars was the only event the Broncos won, 47.7-47.35.

The Huskies finally managed to get their beam routines on track. After two straight meets of scoring less than 48, gymnastics put up a 48.525 to win the event. Western Michigan scored 47.525. Senior Natasha Jufko scored a 9.85, a meet high. The 9.85 tied Jufko’s career high. Junior Amanda Stepp tied for second with Jessi Buis of Western Michigan with a 9.725. NIU won the event 48.525-47.525.

Jufko’s score was a marked improvement over the meet against Ball State on Jan. 24, when she scored a 9.2 after falling in the middle of her routine.

“I had a good week of practice, so I had a little bit more confidence going into this meet,” Jufko said. “I just … went in trying to relax and do what I can. I think this meet was definitely needed for myself.

“It’ll definitely be good. I’m just looking forward to getting back into the gym and working on the little things, because I can still improve on a lot of other things.”

Heading into the last event, NIU and Western Michigan were only separated by two-tenths of a point.

On floor, there was a three-way tie for first. Gotlund, junior Kelly Nortz and the Broncos’ Lauren Bledsoe all scored a 9.775. Junior Shelby Davis started the event with a strong 9.65, good enough for third, which set the tone of the Huskies’ floor routine.

NIU won 48.25-48.1.

“I was really proud of myself because I finally performed to my potential,” Nortz said. “It builds my confidence a lot.”

Gotlund won the all-around over Kayla Weber of Western Michigan. Gotlund scored a 38.55, while Weber had a 37.575.

Morreale thought the team had its best meet of the year, and he attributed it to toughness.

“It’s just continuing to get our job done, and it’s continuing to fight,” Morreale said. “That’s what I told them right after the meet. I was really proud, and that’s why I love this team, because they never quit.”