Senior Megan Melendez (Stafford, Va./North Stafford HS) scored a 9.900 on balance beam and fellow senior Kim Gotlund (Wadsworth, Ill./Warren Township HS) added a 9.800 on beam en route to winning the all-around title as NIU earned its best team score of the year in a 194.675-194.050 loss to No. 16 Central Michigan Sunday at the NIU Convocation Center.
The Huskies (5-7, 2-3 MAC) have been looking to break the 194 barrier through the entire season and used a stellar team performance on balance beam to achieve the milestone.
Led by Melendez’ 9.900 score, the top mark by a Huskie gymnast on any event this season and the first 9.9 on beam for NIU since 2009, the Huskies totaled a 48.950 beam score. That tied for the seventh-highest team beam score in school history.
Both Gotlund and sophomore Jaelyn Olsen (Bethany, Okla./Putnam City West HS) earned their career best marks on balance beam with scores of 9.800 and 9.825, respectively, while Megan Greenfield (Crystal Lake, Ill./Crystal Lake South HS) and Amanda Stepp (Lapeer, Mich./Lapeer East HS) contributed a 9.725 and 9.700 to round out the Huskies’ record mark. Melendez tied for first on beam while Olsen was third and Gotlund tied for fourth.
NIU head coach Sam Morreale was impressed with the performance of Melendez and the entire beam team.
“That’s the beam squad we’ve been looking for all year,” he said. “You’ve heard us talk about how good we can be [on beam] and today we showed it. It was great to see Megan get up there and do what she does 98 percent of the time in practice. She has mentally wrapped her head around making a big push here at the end of the year, she wants to be a MAC champion and she’s lining herself up to do it.”
Morreale credited the beam performance with pushing the Huskies to their season-high score.
“We finally climbed the 194 mountain, which was very good,” Morreale said.
“It was a sneaky 194. [Our scores] were pedestrian through the first two events. Balance beam got us going and moving in the right direction and then we finished well on floor. We’ve got to keep climbing the mountain and keep getting a tenth better every day. I think this [performance today] will help our confidence.”
The Huskies scored a 48.425 on vault to open the meet led by Olsen’s 9.775, which tied for third place. On a tightly-judged bars event which saw no competitor score above a 9.750, NIU’s Natalie Amadio (Lake Zurich, Ill./Lake Zurich HS) tied for second with a 9.725. With the 194 score in sight after the third rotation, the Huskies scored a 48.600 on floor exercise. Stepp had a career high 9.850 to take second place on floor, and Gotlund added a 9.775.
Gotlund finished the meet with an all-around score of 38.925, tying her season-high mark and winning the all-around title.
“Kim had another great meet, coming in just under that 39,” Morreale said. “She’s just a really solid, clean, talented gymnast. From a senior, she’s everything you want. I can’t say enough about all of these seniors. The group has given us everything they’ve had. They’ve all battled just to get out there each week and compete.”
The meet marked the final home competition for Melendez, Gotlund and fellow senior Natasha Jufko. NIU will complete the regular season with meets at Eastern Michigan (March 8) and Arizona State (March 14) before the MAC Championships on Saturday, March 22, in Ypsilanti, Mich.