U gymnastics rolls over Michigan

by Michael Dougherty

Two stories dominated the pre-meet headlines when the fourth-ranked Gophers women’s gymnastics team faced No. 6 Michigan.
The top story was the fact that Michigan has won six straight Big Ten championships in a row, and that makes them a huge thorn in the Gophers’ side.
Secondly, Minnesota senior Mindy Knaeble was competing against her sister Bridget, a freshman for the Wolverines, for the first time.
Fortunately for the Gophers, both stories unfolded in their favor as Minnesota rolled over Michigan by a score of 192.800 to 190.400 in front of 1,979 people Saturday night at the Sports Pavilion.
The match-up, billed as a preview of the Big Ten championship, started out slow for co-head coach Jim Stephenson’s squad.
Michigan jumped out to a 96.325 to 95.725 lead after the vault and uneven bars. However, Minnesota took over the lead with its two strongest events — the balance beam and the floor exercise.
Led by Mindy Knaeble, the Gophers took the lead by outscoring Michigan 48.300 to 47.150 on the beam, and put the match away by winning the floor exercise 48.775 to 46.925.
Knaeble, the defending Big Ten champ on the balance beam, won titles on both the beam and the floor, scoring a 9.750 and a 9.850 respectively.
Bridget, meanwhile, won the all-around competition with a score of 38.500. She took fourth place in both the floor exercise and the uneven bars, scoring a 9.725 in both events.
With a big early season edge going to the winner, Saturday’s meet had a lot riding on it, particularly for Bridget and Mindy.
“It was really hard on the women,” Stephenson said. “They have grown up competing together for over 13 years now, so it is very strange to have battle against each other.
“In the whole scheme of things, everyone came out a winner. Mindy won the beam and floor, Bridget won the all-around, and Minnesota won. I’m happy for the entire Knaeble family.”
Besides the strong performance turned in by Mindy Knaeble, freshman Megan Skokurt from Carmel, Ind., returned from an early season injury to take third place on the uneven bars for the Gophers with a score of 9.750.
“I’m very happy to see Megan perform so well,” Stephenson said. “I think the crowd enjoyed seeing a freshman perform so well on the bars.”
Meanwhile, senior Kim Sveum won a share of the vault title with Michigan’s Nikki Peters by scoring a 9.725.
Sveum also tied her personal best on the floor by scoring a 9.825, which was good enough to share second place with Gophers sophomore Judy Cavazos.
“This gymnastics team that we have at Minnesota is better than it has ever been,” Stephenson said. “This is a great boost for our reputation, and now there is no reason why this team should not make it to the NCAA championship.”