U’s Knaeble earns All-American honor

by Susan Filkins

The Gophers women’s gymnastics team has managed throughout the course of the season to break just about every record it has ever set.
This weekend, it continued to make history.
For the first time ever in the women’s gymnastics program at Minnesota, the Gophers qualified and competed as a team in the NCAA championships in Gainesville, Fla.
After finishing in 10th place out of 12 teams with a score of 194.775 on Thursday night, the Gophers did not advance to the team finals on Friday night. One gymnast, however, advanced to the individual event finals on Saturday night.
Junior Mindy Knaeble, from New Hope, scored a 9.85 on Thursday night on the floor exercise, which was good enough to qualify for the event finals. It also earned her first team All-America honors on the floor exercise.
Gophers coach Jim Stephenson was not shocked by Knaeble’s accomplishment.
“It was not really surprising,” Stephenson said. “She was a Big Ten champion in the event last year, and she has performed well most of the year, so this all falls in line with what we thought might happen. It was great to have a Minnesota representative in the individual finals.”
Knaeble entered into the finals as the first Gopher to do so since Marie Roethlisberger won the uneven bars championship in 1990. Knaeble, however, was unable to match Roethlisberger’s feat.
She scored a 9.7 in the floor to finish ninth out of the 11 gymnasts who qualified. Georgia’s Leah Brown won the title, with a score of 9.95.
Along with Knaeble’s first team All-America status, freshman Judith Cavazos was named a second-team All-American after scoring a 9.875 in the uneven bars during the team competition.
Having both Knaeble and Cavazos being named to All-America teams marks the first time the Gophers have had two athletes reach the prestigious status in one year.
These individual accomplishments, along with an overall solid performance from the team, is what Stephenson said made the weekend a wonderfully rewarding experience.
“We were so happy,” Stephenson said. “It was simply fabulous. There were just under 50 fans there to cheer us on, and Goldy was even there.”
Stephenson also expressed the satisfaction that Minnesota felt when it finished ahead of Penn State and LSU at the national championships. Both are teams that have defeated the Gophers in the past.
Despite Minnesota’s 10th place finish, Stephenson said his team’s attitude far outweighed the demeanor of the other teams who didn’t qualify for the team finals.
“The team that finished above us were all moping around because they didn’t qualify,” Stephenson said. “But we were just so happy.”
Now that the Gophers have established themselves as being one of the top 10 teams in the nation, they will have a lot to build on next season and in the future.
“We dreamed we could make it here, and we did that,” he said. “Next year I’m sure it will be even better.”

Note: UCLA won the team competition with a score of 197.15. Arizona State took second place (196.85) followed by Georgia (196.6) and Michigan (196.5).
Georgia’s Kim Arnold won the all-around title Thursday night scoring a 39.55. Florida’s Susan Hines won the vault championship, scoring a 9.875. The uneven bars champion was Jenni Beathard of Georgia (9.95), and winning the balance beam title was Elizabeth Reid of Arizona State with a score of 9.9.