Gophers encouraged in loss

Despite achieving top score of the season, Minnesota lost to the Alumni team.

by Mark Heise

Things are looking up for the Minnesota men’s gymnastics team.

The Gophers put up a season-best score for the third-straight weekend Saturday, scoring 216.5 points at the Sports Pavillion, and blowing away last week’s previous season-high total of 211.95 in the process.

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when: 7 p.m. Sunday
where: Lincoln, Neb.

Still, despite the strong performance, Minnesota fell 216.5-216.55 to the Alumni, who were given the benefit of the doubt, and then some, in scoring.

But while the Alumni’s participation in the event centered on fun, the Gophers were all business – collecting some of their best scores of the season in all six events.

“These guys continue to just pump it out and they keep getting better,” coach Mike Burns said. “I’m really excited with where this group is headed.”

Minnesota began the meet on rings, changing up the order of events to simulate the Big Ten tournament order.

Rings were a weak spot the team wanted to address, and junior Mitchell Mays took a big step towards improving that, collecting an impressive score of 9.5 to lead the Gophers to a 36.5 team score.

“We definitely took a step in the right direction,” Mays said afterward. “I think having the ability to focus more on the team instead of worrying what an opponent is doing really helped out.”

Mays also collected a high score on vault, posting a 9.3. Freshman Cole Storer matched Mays’ score, as the Gophers finished the event with 36.7 points.

On the parallel bars, Minnesota put up a score of 35.3, thanks in large part to freshman Aaron Fortunato’s 9.0 score.

The Gophers looked impressive on high bar as well, adding a new look to several of their major releases. Junior Steve Vuong nailed his routine, including two consecutive major releases, earning the top score of 9.35.

“It was good for Steve to come back after missing on that routine the last two weeks,” Burns said. “Sometimes you miss a couple times in a row and that monkey on your back starts getting kind of big. Tonight he just took that monkey, threw it on the ground and stomped its head in, which is great.”

As impressive as Minnesota looked after four events, the final two were even stronger.

Storer led the Gophers with a solid floor exercise, earning a 9.55, while sophomore Eddie Campbell added a score of 9.45. Minnesota’s four counting scores were all above 9.0, giving the maroon and gold a score of 37.2 going into the final event.

But perhaps most impressive was the Gophers continued improvement on pommel horse.

Minnesota increased its score on pommel horse by a wide margin for the third straight week, coming away with a team score of 34.65. Sophomore Kit Beikmann won the event with a 9.05, and Jake Lee complemented Beikmann’s routine with a solid 8.75.

“We’ve been doing a lot better recently,” Storer said. “As the season goes on, you build on your scores until you peak somewhere. Hopefully this isn’t our peak and we keep improving.”

Women top Iowa State

The Minnesota women’s gymnastics team put together four solid events for the first time in four weeks, grabbing a season-high score of 195.35 to top No. 10 Iowa state, 195.35-195.325.

The Gophers shored up a lineup on beam that has struggled of late, as junior Angela Walker scored a 9.8 to lead the team to a score of 48.725, a tenth off of the Minnesota’s season-high.

The Gophers also recorded a season-best on vault, with a score of 48.9. Freshman Alexis Russell finished with a career-high score of 9.875, and sophomore Carmelina Carabajal contributed a 9.85.