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Gymnasts celebrate Senior Night with victory over Eastern Michigan, season’s highest score

March 2, 2013
Jaelyn Olsen

Jaelyn Olsen

In its final home meet of the 2013 season, the Northern Illinois gymnastics team hit all four of its events and led from wire-to-wire to earn a 194.775-192.550 victory over Eastern Michigan Friday in the NIU Convocation Center.

The Huskies’ team score was its highest of the season and its eighth-highest all-time.

Northern Illinois improved to 4-4 on the season, 2-3 versus the Mid-American Conference and closed out its home campaign with a 4-1 mark in Victor E. Court. Eastern Michigan fell to

“We are right where we want to be,” said NIU Head Coach Sam Morreale. “We are building as we come down the home stretch. We had a great start on vault to get us going. We are consistent, we are clean and when we can do that on our first event it puts us in a good place.”

NIU posted its highest team vault score of the season with a 48.700 behind freshman Jaelyn Olsen‘s (Bethany, Okla./Putnam City West HS) 9.825, which won vault, and a career-best 9.800 vault by sophomore Amanda Stepp (Lapeer, Mich./Lapeer East HS). Stepp tied for third on vault and also took second place on floor exercise with a 9.800 routine that tied her career-best on floor.

Shelby Davis

Shelby Davis

Four different Northern Illinois gymnasts claimed the four event titles at the meet.

In addition to Olsen on vault, senior Natalie Sutter (Barberton, Ohio/Coventry HS) won uneven parallel bars with a score of 9.750, tying her career high on bars, and junior Megan Melendez (Stafford, Va./North Stafford HS) took first on balance beam with a season-best 9.850 to tie her career high. Junior Kim Gotlund (Wadsworth, Ill./Warren Township HS) won floor exercise with a score of 9.825 and took the all-around title with a 38.900.

Morreale was happy to see Sutter, one of two seniors competing at home for the final time, win bars as part of a much-improved performance on that apparatus by the Huskies. NIU came back from scoring 47.875 on bars a week ago to record a 48.450 Friday.

“We kind of got back on the hitting streak with bars,” Morreale said. “We are a good bars squad, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t do this every time. It was great to see Natalie win there coming off of last week when she struggled on that event.”

Freshman Natalie Amadio (Lake Zurich, Ill./Lake Zurich HS) tied for second on bars with a career-best 9.725, just ahead of fellow freshman Lauren Africano (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais Community HS) and sophomore Morgan Johnson (Elburn, Ill./Kaneland HS), who tied for fourth.

On balance beam, Northern Illinois had four gymnasts in the top six places, led by Melendez. Natasha Jufko (Spring Hill, Fla./Pasco-Hernando HS) took second place with a 9.825, while senior Marisa Liptak (Kendall Park, N.J./South Brunswick HS) and Gotlund tied for fourth. The Huskies tallied a 48.700 on beam, just off their season-best 48.800.

Coach Sam Morreale with seniors Marisa Liptak (left) and Natalie Sutter

Coach Sam Morreale with seniors Marisa Liptak (left) and Natalie Sutter

“Marisa had a great beam routine and our two seniors have been great leaders all year,” Morreale said. “They want this year to be a special year and I think the rest of the team was digging a little deeper today, wanting to give them a great memory to end their home careers.”

Northern Illinois closed out the meet on floor exercise with all six Huskies scoring 9.750 or higher, led by Gotlund and Stepp. Sutter and Peyton Taylor (Bloomington, Ill./Normal University HS) tied for fifth on floor with 9.775 scores.

NIU won every event in the meet and led throughout. The Huskies had six scores of 9.8 or higher and did not count a miss on the day.

“It was nice to hit four events and not have to come back [to get the win],” Morreale said. “It was great to have a lead and finish the meet. We didn’t have to have our backs to the wall. Now we go on the road for two meets and if we have a day like this, it puts pressure on people.”

NIU takes on Western Michigan next Sunday, March 10 in Kalamazoo in its last conference meet of the season before facing in-state foes UIC, Illinois and Illinois State March 16 in Chicago at the State of Illinois Classic.

For more information on NIU gymnastics and Huskie athletics, visit