Northern Illinois seniors Shonda Clore (Grand Rapids, Mich./Northview HS), Ashley Guerra (Orland Park, Ill./Carl Sandburg HS) and Tanya Rachan (Lowell, Ind./Hanover Central HS) provided eight great routines on Senior Day to lead the Huskie gymnastics team to its second-highest overall score of 2012, but it was not enough to overcome Central Michigan as NIU dropped a dual meet to the Chippewas, 194.950-193.925, Sunday at the NIU Convocation Center.
Northern Illinois battled the defending Mid-American Conference champions to a draw on three events as the two teams’ scores on vault, uneven parallel bars and floor exercise were even.
That left balance beam as the deciding event with Central Michigan entering the day as the MAC’s top team on beam with the Huskies in the second spot. On Sunday, CMU prevailed as they registered the top beam score in the league in 2012 with a 49.000 while NIU could manage only a 47.975.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get past beam to make it come down to the last event,” head coach Sam Morreale said. “Central is a good team and they had a great day [on beam]; to go 49 is really good. We had the hiccup on beam, but overall we had a really good meet and there were a ton of bright spots.”
Clore, Guerra and Rachan provided several of those bright spots in their final regular season home competition, as did the NIU floor exercise squad. NIU tied its season-best total on floor with a 48.950 as Rachan won the event with a 9.850 to earn her fourth floor exercise title this season.
Rachan also led the Huskies on balance beam and vault. She registered a season-best 9.750 to tie for fourth place on beam, and was fourth on vault with a score of 9.775. Clore tied her career-high on vault with a 9.750 to place fifth and tied for third on bars with the same score. She added a 9.650 on beam to close out her Senior Day.
Guerra took second on uneven parallel bars to lead Northern Illinois, scoring a 9.775, and matched Clore’s 9.650 on balance beam. Megan Melendez (Stafford, Va./North Stafford HS) tied Rachan for team-best honors on beam with a 9.750.
“I was really happy to see the seniors hit all of their routines today,” Morreale said. “It’s great that they will be able to have good memories of how they performed at this meet. It is hard to quantify the importance of a strong, committed, dedicated senior class. The drive they have is immeasurable.”
Northern Illinois was able to continue its string of 193.500-plus scoring meets as NIU’s 193.925 total Sunday edged out its previous second-best score of 193.625 recorded a week ago at Kent State. The Huskies enter the final three regular season meets, including the State of Illinois Championships on March 17, intent on moving their scores even higher.
“We are in a good place heading into these final three meets,” Morreale said. “All we have to do is fine tune and work on a couple of little things. We may take the opportunity to rest some people and use some of the depth we have seen in our exhibitions.”
With the loss, Northern Illinois fell to 3-5 overall, 2-3 in the MAC while Central Michigan clinched at least a tie for the league’s regular season crown with a 5-0 mark and improved to 11-3 overall.
The Huskies take on Illinois State in a dual meet Sunday, March 4, in Normal, Ill. NIU will compete one more time at the Convocation Center as the Huskies will host the 2012 Mid-American Conference Gymnastics Championships on March 24 featuring all seven MAC women’s gymnastics teams.
For more information on NIU gymnastics and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.