Gophers buck troubles on beam to win

by Susan Filkins

Gophers assistant women’s gymnastics coach Meg Stephenson said last week she needed someone to explain the problems Minnesota has been having in the balance beam because she had run out of answers. “It’s not a lack of effort by any means, it’s just a matter of who will step forward,” she said.
The No. 16 Gophers have been struggling to solve their difficulties in balance beam all season. It seems at least one gymnast falls off the beam in every meet.
The situation was no different this weekend when the Gophers traveled to Columbus, Mo., to compete in the Corvette Cup. The competition consisted of a four-team tournament held in conjunction with a Corvette car show as an endorsement for the meet.
Gophers coach Jim Stephenson said Minnesota was well on its way to a school record team score, when three gymnasts fell off the beam.
“It’s things they shouldn’t fall off on, things not even considered skills,” Stephenson said. “They just lost focus.”
Minnesota (12-4) did manage to win the meet scoring a 193.775, their third-highest score of the year. Missouri finished second with a 192.925 followed by Eastern Michigan scoring a 191.850 and Iowa in fourth with a 189.800.
Despite the win, the Gophers continue to ponder what exactly the problem is on the beam, hoping to come up with a solution.
This weekend they changed the line-up hoping for a better outing on the event. The Gophers have four consistent athletes on the beam, but the other two spots have been juggled between four or five people this season.
The new line-up had junior Stacy Batza starting the Gophers out, followed by freshman Melissa Chang. Instead of solving the problems in the beam for Minnesota, both gymnasts fell, creating a bad start. Stephenson said it is mostly a mental problem.
“There is a lack of confidence there that puts us up on that event apprehensive or tentative,” Stephenson said. “When you find yourself in that situation you want to be aggressive and confident.”
While problems in the balance beam are slow to disappear for Minnesota, other events continue to bring success.
The Gophers broke their school record in the vault scoring a 49.125. Junior Kim Sveum broke her personal best score in the event recording a 9.925, which tied the highest score ever on an individual event for Minnesota.
Minnesota’s best event, the floor exercise, continued to bring in high scores. The Gophers compiled their best score of the season in the floor exercise with a 49.275.
Topping the list of scores in the floor was senior Jonda Hammons who recorded a personal best score of 9.9. The score has been a long time coming for Hammons, who has continually tied her previous personal best of 9.875 several times this season.
Stephenson said he and his coaches still have some things they will try to solve the continuous falls on the balance beam. He said it is something his team is going to have to put together in the next two weeks before the Big Ten championships.
“We’ve got to blow off what has happened to us this year and put it behind us,” he said. “We must step up to that event saying we are good and not carry any emotional baggage.”