Men head to Stanford to compete in the National Championships

No. 8 Minnesota seems to be hitting their stride at the right time.

by Luke Middendorf

Just when the weather warmed up in Minnesota, the No. 8-ranked Gophers men’s gymnastics team left town for even warmer temperatures at the 2008 National Collegiate Men’s Gymnastics Championships at Stanford University in California.

Minnesota seems to be hitting their stride at the right time going into the meet, cracking the 350-point mark in each of their last three meets and nearly posting a season-high in their last outing at the Big Ten team championship with 351.450 points.

The improved performances have lifted the Gophers into the top 10 nationally in 5-of-6 events.

Posting the best team score on vault at the Big Ten Championships, Minnesota enters the NCAA Championships ranked No. 2 on vault. The Gophers also rank eighth on floor exercise, pommel horse, and high bar and ninth on parallel bars, while sitting just outside the top 10 as the nation’s No. 11 team on rings.

At the 2007 NCAA Championships, Minnesota placed sixth overall with a season-best score of 217.150.

Four of its gymnasts are returning 2007 All-Americans, including sophomore Andre Berry (all-around), junior Kit Beikmann (pommel horse), sophomore Adam Reichow (floor/vault) and sophomore Cole Storer (floor).

Eight Gophers gymnasts are listed in the top 25 of this week’s national event rankings. Senior Mitchell Mays holds the highest individual ranking among the Gophers and remains the No. 1-ranked gymnast in the country on vault this week. Beikmann also owns a top-10 national ranking and is currently fourth on pommel horse.

Mays and Beikmann also picked up All-Big Ten honors at the 2008 conference championship, Mays on the first-team and Beikmann on the second.

But all of the accolades and preparation are pushed aside when Minnesota battles Big Ten rivals No. 5 Illinois and No. 9 Iowa as well as No. 1 Stanford, No. 4 California and No. 13 Temple in the evening session qualifier on Thursday night at Stanford.

“The guys are looking relaxed and feeling good about a great week ahead at the NCAA Championships,” head coach Mike Burns said.

Already having faced four of the five teams they will battle during the evening qualifying session on Thursday, the Gophers own a 5-4 record against the field in 2008.

The top three teams will advance to compete against the top three teams in the afternoon qualifying session in the team finals Friday at 9 p.m.