Women upset Ohio State, men fall at Illinois

Several Gophers women’s gymnasts posted personal records on Saturday.

Abby DeMuse performs her floor routine against Illinois at the Sports Pavillion on Feb. 6.

Daily File Photo

Abby DeMuse performs her floor routine against Illinois at the Sports Pavillion on Feb. 6.

by Emily Nicole Polglaze

The Minnesota women’s gymnastics team got a warm welcome back to the Sports Pavilion Saturday.

After two weekends on the road, The Gophers upset the No. 21 Ohio State Buckeyes 196.800-196.450 on their home floor Saturday to add another victory to a now-three-win streak.

“This is huge for our team,” said head coach Jenny Hansen. “Their performances tonight were just clean. They really believed in themselves and they came out confident.”

Minnesota’s athletes had their work cut out for themselves early in the meet. After three rotations Ohio State held a slight advantage over the home team.

The Buckeyes came in with a higher rank over the Gophers in every event but their No. 11 floor contingent – which proved to be Minnesota’s saving grace.

Minnesota dominated in what has been its best event all season and claimed the top four spots in floor, with senior Bailey Abernathy taking the top spot with a personal record 9.925.

Seniors Bailie Holst and Kaitlin Rahon each posted career-best 9.900 to share second place.

“We have really great routines that show our personalities that we can show off and have fun with,” Abernathy said “When we stick those landings, it’s such a great feeling. We’re super confident out there.”

The Gophers defeated the Buckeyes in beam and Rahon and junior Ciara Gardner split first place with a score of 9.875 each.

Bars and vault, which were Minnesota’s weaker areas on the day, were still streaked with success.

Abernathy and Holst both took first place in the two events, respectively, with both breaking personal records. Holst did in both events.

Junior Abby DeMuse rounded out the record-breaking in vault, while juniors Hannah Hitchcock and Rachel Rowland and freshman Kristin Quaglia did so in bars. Gardner recorded new bests in both areas.

The Gophers have now won three meets in a row and are at the top of the Big Ten standings.

The No. 5 men’s team also had its mind on an upset Saturday against No. 3 Illinois.

The Gophers led in the dual through five rotations, but the Fighting Illini pulled away in the final event.

Minnesota was outscored in the high bar, the sixth event in the meet, 71.200-68.100 to lose the dual 416.500-413.750 to Illinois in Champaign, Illinois.

“It was a good competition for us,” said head coach Mike Burns. “We made a few mistakes and so did they, so that’s expected at this time in the season.”

Junior Jalon Stephens tallied a 14.00 in the parallel bars. He was the only Gophers gymnast to break 14.00 in the event and placed second.

He added a personal record on the rings with a 13.950 and placed fifth behind Minnesota’s Mitchell Soukup in second.

Stephens also earned a 14.200 in the vault for a sixth place finish and career best. Vitali Kan claimed first in the event with a personal record of 14.850 and Justin Karstadt took third.

“Vault is still a new thing for me,” Stephens said. “I can go in, hit my set and do what I need to do for the team.”

Sophomore Shaun Herzog earned a 14.600 in floor exercise, which was good for a second place finish.

Minnesota will have a home dual against No. 7 Nebraska on Feb. 4 at the Sports Pavilion for its next meet.

Burns said the team made some mistakes, but it could’ve been much worse.

“They didn’t give up until the very last guy,” Burns said. “That was the thing I was most impressed with.”

Jack White contributed to this report.

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