Women top Michigan for a conference title

by Emily Wickstrom

Minnesota’s women’s gymnast Laura Johnson said her team didn’t set out trying to win a Big Ten Championship.

“We were just there to post our best score of the season,” Johnson said.

Although they didn’t score a season high, the end result was likely more satisfying as the Gophers captured the Big Ten title Saturday with a score of 195.150 in East Lansing, Mich.

Host Michigan State took second with a score of 194.975 and Penn State placed third.

It was Minnesota’s first Big Ten championship since 1998, which was also the last year a team other than Michigan won the title.

The seventh-ranked Wolverines placed a surprising fourth after having four gymnasts fall off the balance beam.

“Michigan opened the door and we were ready to walk through,” Gophers coach Meg Stephenson said. “We knew we had a chance, but things would need to go our way for it to happen.”

The Gophers drew balance beam for their first rotation, but stuck every routine and had the highest team score of the meet on the event.

“One of our main priorities is to stay in the bubble, as our coaches say, and just focus on our team and what we’re doing,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who was crowned Big Ten Gymnast of the Year, was once again the top performer for the Gophers, tying for first place on the vault with a score of 9.800 and placing second on the all-around with a score of 39.100.

Sophomore Ashley Mutchler placed eighth in the all-around with a score of 38.600.

Sophomore Ashley Stanton also had a strong meet, placing second on balance beam with a score of 9.850 and earning the Gophers’ top score on floor exercise with a 9.825.

“(Stanton) was great on both her events,” Stephenson said. “She went out there and did what she knew she could do Ö the judges loved her.”

Stephenson said the Gophers now have a major confidence boost going into the NCAA Regional Championships in two weeks, where they hope to qualify for the national meet for the first time since 2002.

“Words cannot explain how excited we are,” Johnson said. “This shows us how good we are and that we can compete with these teams that are ranked ahead of us.”

Men place sixth

Minnesota’s men’s gymnastics team took sixth place this weekend at the Big Ten Championships in Iowa City, Iowa.

Ohio State won the meet with a score of 215.625, while Minnesota’s team score was 205.400.

“It was a little disappointing for sure,” Gophers coach Mike Burns said. “But there were some obvious bright spots in the whole thing.”

The Gophers struggled on pommel horse with their lowest team score of the year at 31.100.

“We’ve had some really good meets on pommel horse,” Burns said. “We’ve got to go back and see exactly what was giving us the advantage.”

Junior Jake Lee advanced to Saturday’s event finals and took second place on the parallel bars with a score of 9.388.

Lacey and Davis leave basketball program

Minnesota’s women’s basketball team announced Friday that sophomores Brittney Davis and Lauren Lacey were both granted scholarship releases and will leave the Gophers program.

Davis averaged 7.2 minutes and 1.0 points in 24 games, but was expected to be Minnesota’s starting point guard next season.

Lacey was a key reserve this season, averaging 5.1 points and 2.6 rebounds in 12.8 minutes.

With the graduation of six seniors and the departures of Davis and Lacey, the Gophers will be without half of this season’s roster next year.