(WCIA) — 2020 was a historic year on many levels, brining a multitude of ‘firsts’ for athletic programs across the country, including Illinois men’s gymnastics. The team opened the 2020-21 season with a virtual meet against Northern Illinois–the first ever virtual event in NCAA history.

Both the Huskies and Illini competed in their respective gyms, with the event taking place via live stream. The stream sent directly to the judges, and the teams had to obtain and NCAA waiver to allow this type of event. The Illini beat the Huskies 384.750-310.100, but the most memorable part of the meet was the one-of-a-kind experience.

“That was weird,” said Illinois junior Hamish Carter. “That was the first ever gymnastics meet done via virtual streaming system, so yes, we’re inside our own gym but it definitely felt strange.”

“It is exciting. You know we knew we had to be innovative in the pandemic. We wanted a way to ensure we would have a competition season this year, so we pushed it,” says Illinois head coach Justin Spring. “We had two competing formats, we got them together, we tried them out. We had to vote on them from a coaches association, we voted for one and now we move forward and the NCAA finally approved it and so here we are.”

The Illini claimed all six event titles, with sophomore Evan Manivong earning a career-best score of 14.550 on the vault. The Illini return to Huff Hall to open the Big Ten season against Ohio State at 1 p.m.