The Eastern Michigan women’s gymnastics team won its season opener against Northern Illinois on Sunday, 187.800-186.825 at DeKalb, Ill., led by senior Nikole Viltz.
Viltz won with a score of 9.700 on the vault and came in second in the floor exercise with a 9.675. Sophomore Kristina Kurkmilis scored 9.550 on the vault and was second. Junior Tracie Tamashiro finished third, scoring 9.525 on the balance beam. Sophomore Camille Cicchini finished fourth and junior Kristen Yourick finished fifth on the beam.
Coach Steve Wilce, who is entering his 30th season, is looking forward to the upcoming year.
“Last season we started very slow, but we finished very fast,” Wilce said.
A fast ending to the season helped the team place third in the Mid-American Conference championship behind Kent State and Central Michigan. The Eagles missed first place by 1.975 points.
“Last year, it took a long time for the kids to jell and the chemistry to create, but once it did, we had a pretty good group,” Wilce said. “We came out at the end of the year with a lot of enthusiasm looking forward to this year.”
Unlike last year, Wilce is convinced the 2011 team will be better.
“In practice, we’ve been very consistent,” Wilce said. “We feel good about ourselves, more confidence than a year ago and now [the girls] just got to prove it on Saturdays and Sundays.”
Wilce is expecting a good last year from his seniors. Perdoch was out last year with an injury but according to Wilce, has been doing very well in practice. Picking up the slack because of Perdoch’s injury, Qualls had an excellent season last year.
Crouch scored a season-best 9.700 on the balance beam at the MAC championship last year. Wilce is expecting a good season from Viltz, who is participating in three events this season.
“She has been very solid throughout her career, and we expect her to continue to be very solid,” Wilce said.
Last year the team’s regular-season record was 7-9. In addition, 11 gymnasts earned the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women, an award for having good grades and performances in meets.
The average GPA of all 11 was 3.78, with five gymnasts exceeding the group average. Another gymnast that was honored was Erin Grigg, who was named to the Academic All-MAC team. Grigg competed in every meet last year and was also named the MAC Female Scholar Athlete of the Week, March 22, for the third time in her career.
In gymnastics, each event has six performances for each team. The five best performances based on scores are counted to the team’s total score.
This Sunday, the Eagles take on Illinois State, Illinois-Chicago and have a re-match of last year’s championship with Central Michigan starting at 2.m. in Normal, Ill.