Junior gymnast flies high on uneven bars

Chet Decker

Lost in the shuffle of a breakthrough year for the Gophers women’s gymnastics team is the individual performance of Kristen Vandersall.
She is the one athlete not grabbing the headlines, the secret cylinder that keeps the team’s machine running.
But she’s not a secret to her teammates and coach. They know what she can do.
It takes several qualities to be successful in college gymnastics, and the junior from Plymouth has them all: strength, agility and a knack to not give up. It’s what has made her the No. 15 uneven bars competitor in the country, and one of the top floor exercise performers in Minnesota history.
“We recruited her for her ability on the uneven bars and floor exercise, and it’s worked out very well,” said Gophers coach Jim Stephenson.
In fact, it’s worked out so well that Vandersall ranks No. 1 all-time for Minnesota in the bars. Her 9.90 of last season is tied for first with Marie Roethlisberger’s mark in 1990. Vandersall’s 9.85 ties her for second with present gymnast Mindy Knaeble in the floor exercise.
“It’s a healthy competition,” Stephenson said. “They pump each other up and pat each other on the back when they do well, which has been often this season.”
At 7 p.m. Saturday, the floor exercise pair and the rest of the Gophers go head-to-head at the Sports Pavilion with Iowa, a team Stephenson thinks Minnesota can beat.
So does Vandersall.
“I think if we can perform like we have at times this year, we have a very good chance of defeating Iowa,” Vandersall said.
Men’s gymnastics
Winning two meets in three days last week has restored confidence for the Gophers men’s gymnastics team, Coach Fred Roethlisberger said.
And there’s no reason it shouldn’t continue. At 1 p.m. Saturday in the Sports Pavilion, the Gophers tangle with Illinois-Chicago, a team that placed higher than Minnesota on Jan. 20 in the Windy City Invitational.
“We can still beat them,” Roethlisberger said. “Our sophomores are contributing more now. George Beatty and Robert Hubbard are starting to come around.”
It could be the final piece of the puzzle for Minnesota. Now that upperclassmen and leading point scorers Andrew Weaver, Heath Wall, Ryan Carnes, Chris Harrington and Frank Ticknor are competing well, it’s the underclassmen Roethlisberger needs to fulfill his season-end projection.
“I think with our wins last week, the team is starting to realize that they can place in the top three at the Big Tens,” Roethlisberger said.

Men’s and women’s golf
The Gophers men’s golf team plays in the South Florida Invitational today through Sunday in Tampa, Fla. The women’s team plays in the Midwest Classic in Phoenix today and Saturday.
Softball
The Gophers softball team split a doubleheader against North Carolina on Thursday in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Minnesota (6-2) dropped the first game, 4-2, despite a 10-strikeout performance by Jennifer Johnson. The Tarheels took over the game in the bottom of the sixth inning on a two-run homerun off Johnson.
Gophers freshman Steph Klaviter kept the Tarheels off-balance in the second game for a complete-game 9-3 win. Jennifer Fox led Minnesota by going 3-for-3 at the plate with 3 RBI.
The Gophers play in the Triangle Classic today through Sunday in Raleigh, N.C.