Stephens harnesses passion in and outside of the gym

The junior finished first in two events for the Gophers in their last meet.

by Jack White

Jalon Stephens is a man of many talents.

In addition to making adjustments to his repertoire on the gymnastics floor, he has another passion as well – he can sing.

Stephens sings in the choir of New Covenant Church of God in Christ—a church in Minneapolis.

“They know how busy I am, so when I try to get in the choir, it’s usually in the fall or summertime, because then I have time to practice with them,” Stephens said.

Stephens said that he would compete against his brother in singing contests when they were little.

“That’s probably where I found my passion at,” Stephens said.

Stephens has harnessed that passion in his third competition season with the Gophers.

The junior recently qualified for the Winter Cup, an event that requires all-around gymnastics, after his performance in the Windy City. The junior has been working on improving all six of his events since qualifying.

“He’s got some stronger events, some weaker events, but at the all-around, you’ve got to do all six,” said head coach Mike Burns. “He’s trying to add some of those skills and get those difficulties up.”

Stephens has made the Gophers starting lineup in three events that he did not compete in last season.

He received a personal best in the rings in Minnesota’s last dual against Illinois. Stephens earned a 13.950 and a fifth-place finish after not competing in the event in 2016.

The parallel bars is also an event that Stephens did not compete in last season, but he earned a score of 14.00 in the dual against the Fighting Illini, which led all Gophers gymnasts and was a new personal best.

Junior Tristan Duran also qualified for the Winter Cup. Duran said Stephens is easy to pair with in practice because of their similarities.

“[We] have been pretty similar in gymnastics ability, and what we can really maximize on each event,” Duran said. “When it comes to training with him, we just really get along.”

Stephens’s specialties in seasons previous were the floor and high bar. Stephens scored 15.000 or better on three separate occasions in the high bar last year. He also broke the 15.000 mark in the floor twice.

Stephens competed in all six events at the Windy City Invite. Stephens has competed in just four events since the meet, but he has raised his point average in all four.

Stephens and Duran will head to the Winter Cup on Feb. 15 to begin training. The four-day event takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The meet is a national team qualification meet, Burns said.

“It would be nice if we could get him in five events [this week], so he’s doing close to an all-around performance,” Burns said. “That will get him a little more mentally prepared for the Winter Cup.”

Stephens is set for yet another new experience in the gym this season as he has missed a chance to compete in the Winter Cup in seasons past.

“Each year that I’ve qualified to the Winter Cup, I’ve been injured,” Stephens said. “I actually have a chance to compete in the Winter Cup, this is going to be fun.”