Recruits turning into results for Burns

After a third-place Big Ten finish last year, the Gophers will open with an intrasquad meet.

by Luke Middendorf

It’s winter, and that means it’s time for the Minnesota men’s gymnastics team to jump back on the horse.

The pommel horse, that is.

The Gophers come into the 2007 season ranked No. 7 in the preseason edition of the GymInfo Coaches’ Poll, with four returning All-Americans and the ’07 Big Ten freshman of the year.

Minnesota ended up placing third in the Big Ten last season after ranking sixth in the two years prior.

“It was a turning point kind of year for us,” head coach Mike Burns said.

Burns said the big turnaround was mostly due to the team’s mixture of seasoned veterans with some young “piss and vinegar” freshman.

The vision that Burns had when he came to Minnesota four years ago has now become much clearer, he said, as recruiting kids with “the right work ethic and desire” has begun to produce results.

Important losses

Minnesota currently has 20 men on the roster, but is without a key senior from last season and also their top recruit for 2007.

The team’s top recruit this year is “no longer with the team because of some academic issues,” Burns said. “That obviously hurt us because we lost Jake (Lee), and his replacement is no longer with us.”

Last year Jacob Lee was an All-American in the all-around routine and the parallel bars while also being an important leader on the team.

The Gophers do currently have five seniors on the roster and some emerging new leaders.

Key returners this year, according to Burns, are All-American junior Kit Beikmann on the pommel horse; All-American sophomore Adam Reichow on the vault and the floor; Big Ten freshman of the year Andre Berry in the all-around; and senior Mitchell Mays on the rings and the vault.

“We lost a key guy in Jake this season,” Mays said. “So my role on this year’s team is to support the guys as much as I can, do my job on the rings and the vault and just be there for the younger guys whenever they need me.”

Intense competition

The Gophers officially started practice on Sept. 17 and Burns said that the competition has been “pretty hostile.”

The 20 gymnasts on the roster have been very competitive at each practice because they are “fighting for a spot in one of the 12 events for each meet,” Burns said, leaving some men out of luck.

“It’s going to be an exciting battle for the 12 competition spots,” Burns said.

Burns added that success in the floor exercise and the vault routines could take the Gophers far this season, the ultimate destination being a Big Ten Championship.