Women’s gymnastics improve score in loss

Aaron Blake

Minnesota’s women’s gymnastics team fell just 0.175 short of a season-high team score after a pair of falls on the balance beam.

The 11th-ranked Gophers lost to No. 9 Iowa State 197.000-196.550 on Saturday at Williams Arena. The mark improves on the team’s 195.303 average despite the mistakes on the beam.

“There’s a tendency in this sport to always notice what goes wrong,” Minnesota co-head coach Jim Stephenson said. “Tonight, what went wrong for us was balance beam, which has been a lot better this year than it has been in any previous year.”

The squad actually turned in a season-high in the beam just six days earlier at Iowa with a mark of 49.125. Senior MaryAnne Kelley scored a school-record 9.95 on the beam en route to earning Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors.

On Saturday, both Alicia Opsahl and Jenny Alf fell, and only Alf’s score could be dropped. Opsahl’s 9.300 was included and the half-point lost meaning the team would score 48.725 in the event and lose the meet by 0.450.

“That was a little painful to us because our expectations were higher,” Stephenson said. “When you’re up against a team the quality of Iowa State, you can’t make those mistakes and expect to survive.”

Stephenson was quick to also acknowledge how well his team performed in the other three events, though. Aside from the beam, Minnesota broke season highs in every other exercise.

The Gophers upped their previous highs in vault by 0.025, and uneven bars and floor exercise by 0.050.

Kelley helped salvage the beam event for her team, scoring a 9.925.

“Honestly, because I’m last in the beam lineup, I really don’t see what my teammates do before me,” Kelley said. “I did turn around right as Jenny slid down, but that’s the only thing I saw.

“I’ve always been really good in pressure situations so it really doesn’t get to me. I guess it just comes with experience.”

Kelley also posted score of 9.950 in the floor exercise to equal her own school record in the event. Kelley finished the all-around with 39.500, a mark good for second place to the Cyclones’ Shelly Kringen’s 39.625.

Men beat Illinois-Chicago

Minnesota’s men’s gymnastics team finally put everything together Saturday, and the results were indicative of the complete effort.

The eighth-ranked Gophers set a season-high team score in routing No. 15 Illinois-Chicago 213.675-201.600 on Saturday at Williams Arena. The previous high of 209.150 was eclipsed by a full 4.525 points.

“One thing we’ve been having problems with is having everybody healthy and ready to go at the same time,” Minnesota coach Fred Roethlisberger said. “Some guys have struggled with school. Other guys have been struggling with injuries.

“This is the first time we’ve had a meet where we had two weeks where everybody was healthy and at practice and everybody was able to do their workouts.”

Reigning NCAA pommel horse and floor exercise champion Clay Strother finished first in the all-around with a score a 55.075. Strother also took first in floor exercise (9.600), pommel horse (9.750), vault (9.425), and parallel bars (8.950).

The Gophers finished with at least two athletes in the top three in every event. Eric Steele won the rings with a score of 8.850, making the horizontal bar the only event in which Minnesota failed to capture first.

“We’re coming together and tying up the loose ends,” Roethlisberger said. “Although we’ve got a little ways to go, you could see the improvement today.”

Aaron Blake welcomes comments at [email protected]