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    Men's Gymnastics Places Fifth At Windy City Invitational

    Junior Neil Faustino's stellar all-around performance helped propel the Flames to a strong fifth-place finish at Satruday's Windy City Invitational.
    Junior Neil Faustino's stellar all-around performance helped propel the Flames to a strong fifth-place finish at Satruday's Windy City Invitational.
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    Jan. 10, 2004

    Chicago, Ill.- In the words of UIC Head Men's Gymnastics Coach "CJ" Johnson, "UIC is back."

    After a rough 2003 season in which the Flames were plagued by injury, the UIC men's gymnastics gave their fans hope for a 2004 campaign that is a far cry from last year on Saturday night at the 34th Windy City Invitational at the UIC PEB.

    UIC finished fifth among six Big Ten powerhouses ranked in the Top 8 of the College Gymnastics Association's 2004 Preseason Coaches Poll, earning a final team score of 208.800. The score beat the Flames' Windy City Invitational tally from last season by almost 10 points.

    No. 1-ranked Ohio State won the Windy City Invitational team title, using a score of 215.750 to snatch the trophy from No. 3 Illinois. Michigan, ranked fourth in the national coaches poll, took third, followed by Iowa, UIC, and Minnesota.

    The Flames' performance gave their head man hope and a smile.

    "I've been telling people that UIC is back," said Johnson, who gutted out a torn triceps he suffered while helping his team during warmups. "I don't want to sound cocky, but I feel strongly that we'll represent UIC like we did when we went to [the NCAA] Regionals [six out of eight years] in the '90s."

    Notable individual performances included a fabulous three-man show on the still rings by Nick Stavros (9.4), Neil Faustino (8.9) and Eric Novick (8.85), as well as excellent vaults by Faustino, Novick, and freshman Kyle True.

    Faustino, fresh off a gold medal at the Southeast Asian Games in December, led the Flames in the all-around rankings, finishing ninth with an overall tally of 51.450. Novick finished 11th in the all-around, scoring a 49.850.

    Ohio State's Randy Monahan took the all-around title with a 54.150.

    UIC beat their 2003 team highs in the still rings, scoring a 35.6 as a team to beat last season's best of 35.5. The Flames also topped their 2003 parallel bars score of 34.35, putting a 34.65 on the board.



    Overall, Johnson was happy with the heart his squad showed in all six events amidst some of the toughest competition in the nation.

    "It's gonna be a good fight all the way through," said Johnson.

    UIC is back in action on Saturday, January 24th when the Windy City Invitational Champion Ohio State Buckeyes return to the PEB to take on the Flames. Start time is 7 p.m.

    The 34th Annual Windy City Invitational Final Results

    1. Ohio State, 215.750

    2. Illinois, 214.425

    3. Michigan, 214.100

    4. Iowa, 213.150

    5. UIC, 208.800

    6. Minnesota, 205.450