Gophers ready for redemption at NCAAs

Minnesota placed fifth at the Big Ten meet a couple of weekends ago.

Zack Chase exclaims a shriek of joy after his vault performance on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

Image by Daily File Photo; Jaak Jensen

Zack Chase exclaims a shriek of joy after his vault performance on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

by David Nelson

Zack Chase’s walk-up song doesn’t have a heavy beat, loud guitar riffs or lyrics about overcoming struggles.

Gophers fans know the senior gymnast is ready to perform when Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” plays over the loud speakers of the Sports Pavilion.

“It’s always kind of funny to play it and see people’s reactions,” Chase said.

Though Chase’s song selection provides its fair share of quizzical looks, there’s no questioning the senior’s talent when he starts his routine.

“He’s had a pretty successful season thus far, which has been good to see,” head coach Mike Burns said. “He’s had a couple meets this year where he’s gone over 15 on all three events.”

Chase’s talents helped him earn a nomination for the Nissen-Emery award, which recognizes the top senior gymnast in the nation. If he wins, Chase would become just the fourth Gophers gymnast in program history to do so.

“It’s a huge honor to be nominated as one of the top gymnasts in the country,” he said.

After missing the NCAA meet last season because of an ankle injury, the senior will get a shot at redemption this year.

Chase, who finished third on vault at the Big Ten meet, said his attention remains on the team competition.

“I’m just really focusing on what I can do for the team,” he said. “I just want to make sure I get out there and do what I’m capable of.”

The Gophers’ current senior class hasn’t been able to move past the qualifying rounds of the team competition. The group is hoping to finally move past that roadblock this season.

“We know we have the capability to be in the top six,” Chase said. “We’re just going to prove that we are one of the top six teams in the nation.”

Though the team performed well in the individual portion of the Big Ten meet, it left unfulfilled after regressing from a third-place finish in the 2012-13 season to a fifth-place finish this year.

“I think in some ways a little disappointment can be good motivation,” Burns said. “It can go one of three ways: As a team, they can do better, they can do worse or they can stay the same. We’re looking for them to step it up a notch.”

The Gophers started the Big Ten meet with a poor showing on high bar and floor and fell behind in the second-biggest competition of the year.

“You kind of think to yourself, ‘We’ve got to redeem ourselves. No more mistakes. We’ve got to keep pushing,’” sophomore Paul Montague Jr. said.

Minnesota rallied down the stretch but ultimately came up short of where it wanted to finish in the competition.

While the Gophers learned their lesson from the event, Montague said the team isn’t dwelling on the results.

“It started off rough, and we had our rough spots in between,” he said, “but looking at the numbers, it was a good meet.”

As the Gophers continue to shake off the rust, Burns said they expect to hit their stride at the NCAA meet.

“We had our peak performance last year at Big Tens and then at NCAAs, we were a little down,” Burns said. “We weren’t quite at our peak at Big Tens [this season], so we’re looking at this meet as this is when it’s going to happen.

“If we can pull it all together, it’s going to be a good outcome.”