Redbirds win MIC conference, looking ahead to NCAA Regionals
Written by Kaylee Sugimoto on March 29, 2023
NORMAL, Ill. – For the first time in 11 years, the Illinois State gymnastics team claimed victory at the Missouri Independent Conference championships with a 196.375. But, the Redbirds are already looking ahead of their program record score.
Sophomore powerhouses Alana Laster and Jaye Mack’s seasons are not quite over yet. For the second year in a row, the duo was selected to compete in the NCAA Regional Championships for their specialty events, with Laster on vault and Mack on floor.
Laster will be coming into the competition first in the conference, stealing the top all-around spot at the MIC Championships with a 39.350.
Mack claimed first on floor at the MIC Championships for the second season straight, holding her own with a score of 9.925.
Mack also reached a career-high on the event this season, earning a 9.950 at a tri-meet against Kentucky and Illinois.
“I think in order for me to top that score, I would really have to stick every single landing and use those facial expressions, which is what I’ve been working on in the gym,” Mack said. “So, I do definitely think it’s possible and hopefully I can do it next weekend.”
On top of nailing landings, Mack said that she is focusing hard on details in the gym. Last season, Mack qualified for not only the NCAA Regionals, but the NCAA National Championship as well, making her the second Redbird in history to do so.
“Last year, I just wanted to go in and have fun. I obviously then didn’t realize that Nationals was even a possibility,” Mack said. “I kind of want to go in with that same mindset and kind of relieve myself of that pressure. No matter what happens, all I want to do is go out there, have fun, enjoy the moment and soak up being there.”
And on top of the pressure of competition, Mack said that she also puts pressure on herself. In the moments before her routine, Mack spoke about what she tells herself to calm her nerves.
“I think sometimes I just have to take a step back and realize, ‘What am I doing gymnastics for?’” Mack said. “Am I doing it just to win and just to make Nationals? Or, am I doing it because the little girl that was once four years old, watching the older girls, just wanted to be there?”
Laster and Mack will be traveling down to Oklahoma for the NCAA Regionals Championship, competing at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Lloyd Noble Center.