Northern Illinois University senior gymnast Natasha Jufko (Spring Hill, Fla./Pasco Hernando HS) has been selected by Mid-American Conference gymnastics coaches as the MAC Specialist of the Week, the league office announced Tuesday.
Jufko earned the honor, presented weekly to a MAC gymnast who competes in only one or two of four possible events, for the first time this season and the second time in her career.
She is the first NIU gymnast to win a MAC weekly honor in 2014.
For the second week in a row, Jufko tied her career high and won the balance beam event with a score of 9.850 at Kent State. She recorded the Huskies’ highest score of the meet, adding to NIU’s season-best team score of 193.375. Her 9.850 ties her beam score versus Western Michigan a week ago as the highest score by an NIU gymnast in any event in 2014.
NIU head coach Sam Morreale said Jufko has worked hard and battled adversity during her career to become the Huskies’ top worker on balance beam.
“This is a great accomplishment for Natasha and is indicative of all the hard work she has put in,” Morreale said. “It’s nice to see Natasha as a senior reaching her potential. She’s technically perfect and she makes it look easy. She has a comfort level and her beam routine tells a story. I’m proud of her and happy for her and really believe her best is yet to come.”
Jufko, who did not compete in her first two seasons on the squad while battling through injury, has worked closely with NIU beam coach Nita Teague to perfect her routine.
“She has overcome a lot to be in this position now as a senior,” Morreale said. “This award is also a compliment to Nita, for the hard work she has put in to helping get Natasha and the rest of our beam group ready for this season and for each meet.”
NIU (2-2 overall, 2-1 MAC) steps out of league competition this weekend when the Huskies take on Iowa State and Texas Woman’s University in the annual “Pink Meet” for cancer awareness at the NIU Convocation Center. Start time for the meet has been moved UP to 1 p.m. (CT) and the competition will take place in the main bowl of the arena.