Women's Gymnastics: A Look Back On A Historic Season

Cynthia Lemieux-Guillemette
Cynthia Lemieux-Guillemette

April 27, 2012

CHICAGO - The UIC women's gymnastics team set a record season with its 2012 season. The Flames reached their highest ranking in program history at No. 26, earned an NCAA Regional berth and closed out the season ranked 28th, the highest end-of-season ranking to date.

"The real key to this year's success lies in the consistency that this team showed in competition" co-head coach Peter Jansson said. "To have somebody hit higher than 90 percent in gymnastics is very tough, this year we had six individuals with a total hitting percentage over 90 percent. We also had a very consistent line up where seven athletes competed in every meet this year and they competed 20 of the 24 routines on the floor every week. Within this group of seven, Andrea Skala was 100 percent on three events, Cynthia Lemieux, Erin Duggan, Gabrielle May, Catherine Dion and Rachel Montoya all had two events where they were 100 percent and Chantel Turk was 100 percent on one event."

The Flames began their season on Jan. 8 inside the NIU Convocation Center in DeKalb, Ill., against Northern Illinois. UIC posted a 191.575-188.350 victory over the Huskies to begin the season with a 1-0 mark. Among the top competitors in the meet, junior Chantel Turk posted a 9.750 on the vault to lead all competitors. Of UIC's 14 events on the season, Turk led all opponents on the vault on three occasions. Co-captain, Andrea Skala earned a 38.675 in the all-around, the first of two meets the senior claimed the top spot in the event.



The team then traveled to Gainesville, Fla., to face the nationally ranked Florida Gators inside the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Jan. 13. Despite falling 196.175-191.875, the team improved its overall score by one third of a point. During that meet, freshman Alyssa Cruz posted her career-high 8.300 on the floor exercise.

The Flames opened at home inside the Physical Education Building in Chicago, Ill., on Jan. 21 against North Carolina State. UIC yet against raised its team score to 193.050 from 191.875 just one week earlier. North Carolina State outlasted the Flames with a 194.200 outcome. Sophomore Catherine Dion posted two career-high scores during the contest, a 9.650 on the bars and a 38.400 in the all-around. Freshman Tamara Moten competed in her sole meet on the season and posted an 8.900 on the floor.

With another home meet, the Flames welcomed the Wildcats of Kentucky on Jan. 28, where UIC's team score continued to climb. The Flames squad posted a 194.350 to Kentucky's 195.050. Despite the loss, Skala posted a 39.050 in the all-around to lead all competitors, while earning a career-high 9.850 on the beam, which also led all contenders in the event. Turk posted a 9.850 on the floor to lead all UIC and Kentucky competitors, the first of two meets where the junior led in the event.

UIC then traveled to Ypsilanti, Mich., for the State of Illinois versus the State of Michigan meet inside the Bowen Field House, which featured Illinois State and UIC against host team, Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan. Not only did the State of Illinois team win, but UIC claimed the overall crown with a 194.125 score to improve the Flames record to 4-3.

With a quick turnaround, UIC faced Western Michigan Feb. 5 inside University Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich., where the Flames were edged by the Broncos 193.825-193.425. Dion posted a 9.800 on the beam to lead all competitors, while senior co-captain, Rachel Montoya posted a career-high on the floor exercise with a 9.775.

"The leadership of our captains (Andrea and Rachel) over the past two years attributed to our success as they have been be able to get the team to rise to the next level in practice on a daily basis, which led to our success during weekend competitions," Jansson said.

The Flames returned to the Physical Education Building on Feb. 11, where the team dominated Seattle Pacific in a 195.000-190.650 victory, to set yet another season-high score. As it was senior day, the two seniors, Montoya and Skala had more than noteworthy meets as combined, the two recorded four personal bests and five season high scores. Montoya logged three personal bests, a 9.800 on bars, 9.825 on beam and a 38.875 in the all-around, while also posting a 9.750 for a season-high score on the vault. Skala recorded a 9.900 on bars for a personal best and lead all contenders. Turk posted two first-place finishes and two season-high scores, 9.875 on the vault and the floor. Dion and sophomore Cynthia Lemieux-Guillemette tied for a first-place finisher on the beam with a 9.850. With a 9.775, junior Erin Duggan posted a career best on the beam. Rounding out the notable achievements, freshman Gabrielle May earned a 37.525 for her personal best in the all-around.

"We also had a group that was able to score at the absolute highest level, 9.8 or better, in Gabrielle (May) twice, Rachel (Montoya) three times and Catherine (Dion) seven times," Jansson said. "Someone who really stood out in being able to put out big scores is Cynthia (Lemieux-Guillemette) with twelve, Andie (Skala) with 14 and Chantel (Turk) with 15 scores of 9.8 or above."

UIC notched a 195.250-191.900 win over Midwest Independent Conference (MIC) foe, Southeast Missouri State inside Houck Field House in Cape Girardeau, Mo., on Feb. 18. Lemieux-Guillemette logged a personal best on the beam with a 9.875. With a 9.825, May collected a personal best on the vault, while Skala earned two personal-high scores with a 9.825 on the vault and a 39.125 in the all-around.

With a win over (then) 18th-ranked Illini, UIC earned its (then) highest ranking in program history at No. 28 as the Flames downed Illinois, 195.250-193.975 Feb. 25 inside the Physical Education Building. From there, UIC again improved its ranking to No. 26, despite being defeated 195.550-195.175 by Michigan State on March 2. The 195.175 is a season-high score for the team.

In the final two regular season meets, UIC contended conference foes, Illinois State and Centenary at Shreveport, La., on March 10, where the team placed first with a 193.675 score. Then, at the Illinois Classic, on March 17, the Flames claimed second place in the four-team field, scoring 194.550.

Moving into post-season competition, the Flames played host and placed second at the MIC Championship (194.725), while Skala was named the "Gymnast of the Year" and the "Senior-Athlete of the Year", while co-head coaches Peter and Mary Jansson were selected as the "Coach of the Year". The team scored a 194.725.

The 2012 season effort was enough to earn a post-season NCAA Regional berth, which was held inside Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill. In UIC's ninth NCAA Regional appearance, in front of 1,567 spectators, UIC co-head coaches, Peter and Mary Jansson were named the "Regional Coach of the Year", and the Flames squad placed sixth with a 194.150 to conclude the season.

"It is a season that will always be remembered both for its successes, but also for the great environment that every member of the team was part of creating in the gym so that everyone had an opportunity to realize their potential and go after it," Jansson said.