The Northern Illinois gymnastics team struggled on its first event, the uneven parallel bars, and went on to a disappointing third-place finish and an overall score of 192.075 Saturday night at the EMU Eagle Invitational.
The Huskies finished behind host Eastern Michigan, who totaled a 193.850, and runner-up Air Force (192.250), while picking up a win over Temple (190.725), to put their season record at 5-7 overall.
NIU, will host the 2012 Mid-American Conference Gymnastics Championship at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 24, in the NIU Convocation Center, finishes its MAC regular season slate 2-4.
Northern Illinois opened the meet with a season-low score of 46.525 on uneven parallel bars after scoring at least 48.475, or nearly two points better, in each of its last three meets on the event.
The Huskies rebounded on balance beam with its second-best beam score of the season at 48.700, but could not dig out of the hole the first event miscues created.
“Bars was our downfall today,” said NIU head coach Sam Morreale. “We did a great job of showing resilience and coming back with a really good beam, but that first event was too much to overcome. The positives are that if we hit bars, we are still a 194 team. We’ll take this, learn from it, refocus and look forward to the state meet and MACs.”
Melendez, the reigning MAC Specialist of the Week, won balance beam with a 9.825 and tied for fourth on uneven parallel bars, scoring 9.750, to lead NIU on both events. Rachan tied for first on vault, scoring 9.750, and took second place on floor exercise with a 9.825. She added a 9.725 on balance beam to round out another solid day.
Junior Natalie Sutter added a 9.775 on floor exercise to place fourth as the Huskies had another good day on the event with a 48.700 total. Shonda Clore had NIU’s second-highest vault score on the day with a 9.700 and freshman Amanda Stepp, a Lapeer, Mich. native, went 9.650 on vault and floor exercise, and 9.700 on balance beam.
“It was definitely not our best outing but it doesn’t necessarily hurt us,” Morreale said. “We just didn’t help ourselves. We’re not done, we’ve got two more shots. We got a wake-up call with the start, and then snapped back into the team we are.”
Northern Illinois returns to competition Saturday, March 17, at the State of Illinois Championships versus Illinois-Chicago, Illinois, NIU and Illinois State. The meet begins at 4 p.m.
For more information on NIU gymnastics and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.