The Northern Illinois gymnastics team added another record to its 2013 list Thursday as four Huskies were named to the Mid-American Conference Academic All-MAC Gymnastics team.
Senior Natalie Sutter (Barberton, Ohio/Barberton HS) and juniors Kim Gotlund (Wadsworth, Ill./Warren Township HS), Natasha Jufko (Spring Hill, Fla./Pasco-Hernando HS) and Megan Melendez (Stafford, Va./North Stafford HS) all earned the honor, marking the first time NIU has had four gymnasts on the first team.
Both Gotlund and Melendez were voted to the Academic All-MAC team for the second consecutive year while Sutter and Jufko debuted on the list this season.
Five more Huskies earned honorable mention Academic All-MAC honors: Morgan Johnson (Elburn, Ill./Kaneland HS), Marisa Liptak (Kendall Park, N.J./South Brunswick HS), Kelly Nortz (Bay Village, Ohio/Magnificat HS), Amanda Stepp (Lapeer, Mich./Lapeer East HS) and Peyton Taylor (Bloomington, Ill./Normal University HS).
Gotlund, a first team All-MAC selection, set or tied her career highs in three events and in the all-around in 2013. She was named MAC Gymnast of the Week after posting a career-best 39.025 in the all-around versus Kent State. In her first season in the line-up as an all-arounder, Sutter tied or exceeded her career high score in every event. She capped her career by finishing third in the all-around at the 2013 MAC Championships with a career-best 38.900. Both Sutter and Gotlund are majoring in health sciences/pre-physical therapy and carry nearly identical GPA’s of 3.78 and 3.77, respectively.
Melendez, the Huskies’ top performer on uneven parallel bars and balance beam in 2013, owns a 3.34 GPA in biological sciences. She finished on the podium on both bars (third) and vault (sixth) at the MAC Championships and had 18 top five finishes on the year to lead Northern Illinois.
A balance beam specialist who spent her first two years at NIU battling injuries, Jufko had six top five finishes on beam this year and was named MAC Specialist of the Week during the year. She and Melendez both made the All-State team this year after finishing in the top six on beam and bars, respectively, at the State of Illinois Championships.
“I’m extremely happy to have four NIU gymnasts on this year’s Academic All-MAC team,” said NIU head coach Sam Morreale. “They are very deserving and work as hard in the classroom as they do in the gym. We’re very proud of what they have accomplished and the way they represent our program.
“We have a team full of true student-athletes and I want to congratulate not just the four individuals who made the first team, but also our five honorable mention selections. Every gymnast on our team made the Academic All-State team as well this year and I could not be more proud.”
The 23-woman Academic All-MAC team was chosen by the league’s faculty athletics representatives.
To qualify, a student-athlete must have at least a 3.20 cumulative GPA and have participated in at least 50 percent of the contests for that particular sport.
First-year students and junior college transfers in their first year of residence are not eligible for the award. Outstanding academic and athletic accomplishments for the current season are only considered.
For more information on NIU gymnastics and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.