U signs Mexico’sNo. 1 gymnast

by Chet Decker

The outlook for the Gophers women’s gymnastics team went from impressive to incredible all with the signing of one recruit.
This season Minnesota had its most successful season, achieving its top national ranking and breaking numerous school and personal records.
After directing his team to the middle of the ladder of success, Coach Jim Stephenson wants to reach the top.
The recent signing of Mexico’s Judith Cavazos could bring Minnesota to new heights.
“As a team we’re certainly advancing quickly,” Stephenson said. “This has the potential to produce a real jump for us. But this is taking a couple of rungs in one step.”
Cavazos, the No. 1 women’s gymnast in her country, is a five-year member of the Mexican national team. She has participated in six World Championships, the World University Games and the Pan-American games.
“I am really looking forward to going to Minnesota because it’s a great opportunity,” said Cavazos from her home in Guadelupe, Mexico. “I am very happy because of the things I’m going to do — gymnastics and studying. I like to do those.”
Cavazos is the second world-class athlete from another country that Stephenson has landed in two years. Last year, he signed Cathy Keyser, a member of the Australian national team who holds dual citizenship in Australia and the United States. Keyser became a key figure in Minnesota’s banner season.
But while Keyser participated in three events, Cavazos is expected to compete in all four.
“(Cavazos) is excellent in every event. She’s going to help us everywhere,” Stephenson said. “That’s the greatest attribute she brings to us.”
Last year the Gophers had only one athlete compete in all four events: Mindy Knaeble, who made the All-Big Ten team.
“This is just a huge boost for us,” Stephenson said.
Like most of Stephenson’s recruits, Cavazos’ path to Minnesota was a unique one.
Her brother was a foreign exchange student in the Twin Cities, and his host parents learned of his sister’s gymnastic talents.
Knowing Cavazos wanted to go to school in the United States and continue her gymnastics, the host family contacted Stephenson.
Although Stephenson was unable to travel to Mexico to meet Cavazos, his budget did enable him to fly Cavazos to Minnesota for a visit.
“I was like, ‘Oh wow!'” Stephenson said. “She is a very charming person. She has all the attributes we look for in a recruit.”
Although Spanish is her native language, Cavazos did pass a foreign language test to attend the University.
“Sometimes I find it difficult to speak English, but I am going to take some classes and get better,” Cavazos said.
Cavazos, 18, plans to major in psychology.
“College gymnastics is going to be very different, so I want to do my best and train hard and enjoy,” Cavazos said.
Notes: Earlier the Gophers signed two other recruits: Kristi Selinger of Aurora, Colo., and Melissa Change of Blue Springs, Mo. Both women will compete in the vault, Minnesota’s weakest event this year.