Seniors to be honored against Mountaineers

Three four-year contributors to the women’s team to be recognized.

Mark Heise

After a trying year full of injuries for the Minnesota women’s gymnastics team, the Gophers will finally have an opportunity to recognize their three senior athletes.

Minnesota will honor its seniors Saturday at the Sports Pavilion at 6 p.m. when the team wraps up its regular season against West Virginia.

After losing two of the team’s three seniors to injury, coach Meg Stephenson said this senior night would mean more.

“This senior night isn’t just to recognize what these athletes did this season, it’s to honor what they did for us over their careers,” she said. “We have a lot to celebrate. It was tough for them to end the way they did, but they still have a lot to be proud of.”

Seniors Kelly Ganchan, Kim Womack and Stephanie Funk will receive the recognition deserved, but aside from the ceremony, it’s down to business for the rest of the team.

The Gophers are looking for a good score to help solidify a spot in the NCAA Regional Championship.

“We try to look at it as just another home meet,” sophomore Carmelina Carabajal said. “Hopefully the seniors will enjoy the meet, but the focus is to keep improving like we’ve been doing over the past few weeks.”

Replicating last week would be impressive enough for Minnesota, as the Gophers recorded season highs in three of four events, leading to a season-best score of 195.8.

The uneven bars, however, are turning into one of Minnesota’s weakest events. With many early-season injuries, the lineup has been limited. But junior Angela Walker said the personnel on bars have been putting in extra work, but she said she feels there is room to improve.

“I think we’ve started a new trend of improvement, and with success in the other three events, I think we’ve noticed that there’s definitely room to improve,” she said. “We’re working on fixing the little things right now, trying to get as much as we can out of every routine.”

But bars aren’t the only area the Gophers are working on. Even with the success Minnesota has seen on the other three events, Stephenson said she feels her team hasn’t peaked quite yet.

“We aren’t perfect yet, so there’s plenty of room to improve,” she joked. “We’re working on cleaning up a few areas, and really focusing on how

we can avoid the extra deductions. We still have a lot of potential.”

Men to Chicago

The men’s gymnastics team heads to the University of Illinois-Chicago for the last dual meet of the season.

The Gophers will compete Saturday at 7 p.m. after enjoying an off week last weekend.

Minnesota started its season at Chicago, struggling in the Windy City Invitational, but it will be a different team heading to Illinois this weekend.

The Gophers have since increased their score by nearly 11 points, recording a season-high of 216.5 in their last regular-season home meet on March 3.

Coach Mike Burns said he has been looking forward to this last opportunity to prepare before the Big Ten Championships at home next weekend.

“It’s really good timing for us, getting a chance to tune up before the championships next week,” he said. “Most coaches like to have that last weekend off before Big Ten’s, but right now I’m really feeling good about this, and I think it will really help us get back in the swing of things.”

Funk broadcasting

For the second straight home meet, senior Stephanie Funk will provide commentary via webcast on Gophersports.com. The showing is free to watch for those fans unable to make it to the meet.