April 18, 2009
The University of Illinois swept the coaches of the year awards Saturday morning at the NCAA Championships banquet in Lincoln, Neb. Illini head coach Bob Starkell was named National Coach of the Year and assistants Kim Landrus and Amy Kruse earned the nod as co-Assistant Coaches of the Year by their peers.
Later that evening, the Big Ten Conference saw a handful of gymnasts earn spots on the awards podium at the NCAA Individual Event Finals at the University of Nebraska's Bob Devaney Sports Center.
Illini sophomore Melissa Fernandez cemented her name in Illinois gymnastics lore, becoming the first gymnast ever to compete in the NCAA Championship individual event finals, posting a 9.8375 to tie for seventh place on beam. By virtue of advancing to the beam final, Fernandez also became the first gymnast to earn first team All-America distinction in program history.
Big Ten Gymnast of the year Brandi Personett of Penn State finished fourth on floor with a 9.8875. The performance marks the second straight top-five finish in the NCAA individual event finals for the junior Nittany Lion, as she placed fifth in the nation on beam a year ago. Penn State also saw freshman Whitney Bencsko capture an eighth place finish on vault with a score of 9.7813 and junior Alexandra Brockway earn a 13th place finish on bars with a 9.7875 mark.
On the heels of earning a share of the Big Ten title on the floor exercise, Michigan's Kylee Botterman posted yet another stellar performance in the event to secure a ninth place finish (9.7000) in a field of the top collegiate gymnasts in the country. The U-M sophomore becomes the first Wolverine since Calli Ryals to win the floor exercise title at the Big Ten and NCAA Regional meet and earn All-America first team honors in the event.
Individual Event Finals Results