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Rule change forces reduced lineup, difficult decisions

Starting next week, teams can only use five competitors on each apparatus, meaning poor routines could be costly.

Thursday can be the toughest day of the week for Mike Burns.

The ninth-year head coach of the Gophers men’s gymnastics team watches his team carefully throughout practice and meets, thinking about the lineup he will announce the next Thursday.

Some event lineups are tougher to form than others, but ultimately Burns knows his decisions can make the difference in a win or a loss.

His job gets a little tougher this week as an NCAA rule change draws nearer.

Sunday’s meet against the University of Illinois-Chicago marks the final time this season that NCAA teams can use six gymnasts on each event.

Starting next week, when No. 6 Minnesota hosts Iowa, only five can be used, and each individual score counts toward the team score.

That means any poor routines will hurt the team.

“It’s going to be really tough decisions to figure out who’s going to be the top five guys [on each event],” Burns said. “It’s going to really come down to consistency and the potential to score a big score.”

Sophomore Steve Jaciuk, the Gophers’ most consistent performer on parallel bars and high bar this season, said the team has been aware of the rule change’s meaning since the start of the competition season.

“Almost the first meet, we already started talking about the five-up, five-count,” he said. “We all know how important it is.”

Jaciuk said fighting to make the top five will further motivate the gymnasts who are left out.

But Burns has hinted throughout the season that he will make fewer lineup changes once the new rule is introduced.

Burns said when the pressure intensifies even more during the Big Ten championships and NCAA championships, the team is more likely to use an inconsistent athlete who can post a high score than a consistent athlete who can post moderate scores.

Minnesota will test the new rule in the next few weeks against No. 8 Iowa, No. 7 Illinois, No. 10 Nebraska and No. 1 Penn State.

The NCAA uses most of a team’s regular-season scores and its Big Ten championships score to determine the 12 teams that will compete in the NCAA championships.

The Gophers have five meets to improve their team scores before the postseason. Three of those meets will come on the road, where Minnesota has already recorded its highest team score of the season.Rule change forces reduced lineup, difficult decisions

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