Best showing of year isn’t enough in Utah

Minnesota’s team score was the highest of the year, but the Utes were too much.

It may be hard to comprehend that the Minnesota women’s gymnastics team’s first loss of 2008 could be their best overall meet of the season.

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Winter Cup
what: Men’s gymnastics
when: 3 to 8 p.m., Thursday
where: Las Vegas

But that is exactly what the Gophers 197.750-194.100 defeat to No. 2-ranked Utah was on Friday evening.

Minnesota scored a season-best in overall points, combined with the fact that the national rankings are determined by points alone, not by wins and losses.

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Best of Minnesota
what: Women’s gymnastics
when: 6 p.m., Saturday
where: Sports Pavilion

“That win-loss record doesn’t really have any meaning for us, it doesn’t rank us or qualify us for anything,” co-head coach Meg Stephenson said. “We’re really just out there trying to get a good score, that’s the objective.”

While she said her team is capable of competing with the top programs in the nation, Stephenson admitted that the electrifying environment of over 10,000 fans at Utah aided the Gophers with an adrenaline rush that helped them score as high as they did.

“Being in an arena like that, where there is such a huge amount of fans was a great opportunity for them (Minnesota) to show off,” Stephenson said. “When you compete in front of crowds like we do at home and like the one we saw in Utah, it makes it really fun to go out and perform.”

Junior Carmelina Carabajal shined again for Minnesota, gaining the team’s top score in three of the four events.

Carabajal went on to notch career-high numbers in the all-around with a 39.275, and has been providing much more than that all season for the Gophers.

“She (Carabajal) provides great leadership to the team because she shows her work ethic during practice and her teammates get to see how it pays off in the meets,” Stephenson said.

But the Gophers and Carabajal needed more than their best showing of the year to topple the Ute’s, which did not happen as Stephenson said a fall on the floor exercise hindered Minnesota’s chance of winning.

Although costly mistakes were made, the 16th-year coach pointed to some major growth that occurred during the process.

“We were pretty impressed with the way they handled being in front of a crowd of 10,100 people,” Stephenson said about her team. “The No. 1 thing is that we are not making as many mistakes, and also that we are getting more confident in our routines.”

Men fall to No. 1 ranked Nittany Lions

When a head coach says that watching another sporting event at an opposing college was more exciting than watching his own team’s event, it’s easy to see that things probably didn’t go well.

That was exactly the case for Gophers men’s gymnastic coach Mike Burns, who jokingly stated that watching the Penn State basketball team’s upset over Michigan State on Saturday night was more exciting for him than Minnesota’s 354.200-343.450 loss to Penn State earlier in the day.

Statements like “we struggled,” and “we had more struggles than we could have cared to have been counted” flooded Burns’ speech after the loss to the Nittany Lions, even though the Gophers put up their second-highest score of the year.

“Overall, we had a rough hit percentage, which wasn’t what we were hoping for,” Burns said. “We counted eight misses, which is something that we just can’t afford to do.”

Although Penn State won all six team events, Burns was quick to point out some of Minnesota’s bright spots from the meet, including individual wins by junior Kit Beikmann (pommel horse) and sophomore Colin McGuire (high bar).

“We had our season-best scores in a lot of places, and many guys had their personal bests,” Burns said.

Overall, Burns noted this trip as a learning experience, and no better way to learn than against the best in the nation.

“We had a good team meeting afterwards, and I think we have our heads on straight and headed in the right direction,” Burns said. “We’re headed back to Cook Hall to get back to work and try and stop the bleeding.”