Gophers battle with hometown teams

The battle comes a week after tallying its best team score this season at Utah.

Luke Middendorf

Following a Utah meet in which the Gophers women’s gymnastics team saw both their highest team score and largest crowd of the year, they now come home seeking more of a good thing.

This Saturday marks the annual Best of Minnesota Meet, where the top collegiate women’s gymnastics programs in the state of Minnesota compete against one another in front of what should be the largest crowd most of the teams see all season.

The four programs involved in this year’s competition, which is held at the Sports Pavilion at 6 p.m. Saturday, include Minnesota, Gustavus, Hamline and Winona State.

“We really love showcasing all of the collegiate programs in the state,” Gophers co-head coach Meg Stephenson said. “It’s a really wonderful event because it brings the community together.”

Many of the participants of these programs are from high schools in the Twin Cities area, Stephenson said, which can help to draw one of the largest and most enthusiastic crowds of the season.

Stephenson added that many student groups for girls, like the Girl Scouts, will also be attending the meet, along with many fans and supporters from each college. This could make for a rowdy environment, but one that Stephenson welcomes because it puts people in the seats.

“It gives the local gymnasts an opportunity to see what their options are in the state as far as going to college and continuing on in their gymnastics,” Stephenson said.

Although the other three programs are not at the same level of competition Minnesota usually faces, Stephenson said that Minnesota’s score still counts toward their overall season average.

That makes this unique event just as important as facing any of the top teams in the nation, like the No. 29-ranked Gophers did last weekend during their strong showing against No. 2 Utah.

“Every meet that we are in can count, so we need to go in there and do the job and keep rolling off of our high score in Utah,” Stephenson said. “I think they (the Gophers) are really motivated. They love performing and the more people that are there to watch them, the better.”

Men compete at Winter Cup

Three current members and two Gophers men’s gymnastics alumni are competing from Thursday until Saturday at the USA Gymnastics Winter Cup in Las Vegas.

The three current members are all sophomores, including Aaron Fortunado, Cole Storer and Andre Berry. Representing the Gophers alumni is Guillermo Alvarez and Jake Lee.

The Winter Cup includes two days of competition. The top 42 gymnasts from the first two days, based on the point-ranking system approved by the Men’s Program Committee, will advance to the finals on Saturday.

The Winter Cup serves as a reranking competition for the U.S. senior men’s team. Based on performances at the Winter Cup Challenge, seven gymnasts will be named to the senior national team.