Gophers tie for fourth as Michigan takes crown

Senior Alexis Russell finished in seventh in the Big Ten all around.

by Alexandra Pluym

Despite tying their season-high score of 195.35 at the Big Ten championships, the Gophers womenâÄôs gymnastics team could only manage a fourth-place tie with Michigan State on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio . Minnesota head coach Meg Stephenson said the Gophers were content with the final score, especially since the Big Ten meet has more pressure than any other meet. âÄúI think [the final score was] a good thing. We were pleased about that,âÄù Stephenson said. âÄúI do think thereâÄôs room for improvement.âÄù Michigan won the meet for the fourth straight year, earning 196.9 points. Penn State finished in second with 196.575 points and Iowa in third with 195.575. The Gophers approached Saturday as if it were any other meet, junior captain Kristin Furukawa said, but the conference meet always produces some anxiety. âÄúEveryoneâÄôs got nerves, especially at the Big Tens. ItâÄôs a lot louder, and there are more fans,âÄù Furukawa said. Minnesota had a bye during the first rotation but came out in the second rotation on vault, tying their season-best vault score, earning 48.725 points. Sophomore Lucy Ennis scored a 9.8 to tie for eighth place at the meet. Junior Kendra Elm and freshman Shannon Golich each scored 9.775, GolichâÄôs best vault score this season. Senior Alexis Russell led the Gophers during the third rotation on the uneven bars when she scored a 9.85, finishing fifth overall in the meet. Ennis and Furukawa each landed a 9.8, which helped Minnesota to their 48.925 finish. Freshman Jasmine Brown competed on the bars for her second time and earned a score of 9.75. After a fourth-rotation bye, the Gophers moved to the balance beam for the fifth rotation. Furukawa was the teamâÄôs top beam performer, scoring a 9.9, which also tied her for second overall. Golich scored a personal best on beam with a score of 9.825, tying with teammate Ana Balboa. Overall, the Gophers scored a 48.925 on the beam. Although Furukawa was the last beam performer for Minnesota, she said her routine helped motivate her teammates for a strong finish on the floor exercise. âÄú[Beam] was a huge accomplishment for me,âÄù she said. âÄú[It was fun] going in there and doing what I know how to do. I think that set people up for floor.âÄù After the teamâÄôs third and final bye during rotation six, Minnesota finished on floor during the seventh rotation. Russell was the teamâÄôs top performer on the floor when she earned a 9.85, tying for sixth place overall in the event. All of the GophersâÄô floor performers finished with 9.7 points or higher. As a team, the Gophers finished with 48.775 points. One of RussellâÄôs biggest goals for the Big Ten meet was to finish high in the all around, but this year Russell didnâÄôt have the luck she had last year (fourt h in the all around), finishing in seventh with 39.2 points. Penn StateâÄôs Brandi Personett won the all around, scoring a 39.55. At the end of the day, the Gophers felt they accomplished what they wanted to do at the championship. âÄúWe hit 23 for 24 [of the routines], so we were really close, and we didnâÄôt have to count that fall,âÄù Stephenson said. The Gophers will find out March 29 where they will compete for regionals. The NCAA Regionals start April 10, with the top two teams at each site earning a place in the NCAA Championships.