CHICAGO (CBS) — Last fall, the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams at University of Illinois-Chicago received a big shock: Both programs were to be discontinued because of rising costs of funding collegiate athletics.
The Flames didn’t let the news bring them down. Instead, they united, and the women’s team is trying to finish their final season strong.
Coach Peter Jansson was “initially shocked and angry” after hearing the program would be shut down at the end of the season.
Jansson and his wife, co-head coach Mary, have been at UIC for 29 years. They are still trying to figure out why their program is ending.
“You check all the boxes; you are a winning program; you’re not too expensive; you don’t ask for more stuff; great students graduate in four years, but then someone says it’s not good enough,” he said. “It is really hard thing to come to terms with.”
Senior Mikailla Northern recalled, “The first thing I said was, ‘What can we do it about it?’ It can’t just be shut down. There has to be solution.”
Instead of dwelling on the negative, this close-knit group focused on the positives. They posted a 10-meet winning streak, are 6-0 in dual meets and ranked 35th in the country.
“What we did have, was this year and to just really enjoy it,” said senior Riley Mahoney.
“We didn’t come into the gym, and talk every day about what’s happening,” said Jansson.
There are five seniors, so the 11 other gymnasts will have decisions to make.
UIC will allow them to transfer. If they decide to stay, the school will honor their scholarship.
The team is hoping for a great showing at the conference tournament this weekend so they can land a spot in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012.
“That’s the goal,” Northern said. “As long as we do our stuff and hit it at the next couple of meets, we can totally do it.”