Gophers to host North Central Regionals this weekend

For the first time since 2000, the Minnesota women’s gymnastics team will host the NCAA North Central Region Championship, which takes place at 6 p.m. this Saturday in the Sports Pavilion.

Along with the Gophers, Utah, Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa and Southern Utah will compete. Air Force and Utah State will also have individual gymnasts performing throughout the meet.

Although the Gophers dropped from No. 25 to No. 28 in the national polls after placing sixth at the Big Ten Championship two weeks prior to this Saturday’s meet, co-head coach Meg Stephenson said the extra practice time and home-gym advantage should give Minnesota an edge in the Region Championship.

“We were able to have some down time in the past week and recuperate from the long season, since we didn’t have any real breaks since January,” Stephenson said. “And it’s a tremendous advantage to have this meet at home in front of our home crowd. It’s wonderful not to have to travel and, consequently, be able to have a normal week of practice.”

In order for the Gophers to top the stiff competition on Saturday, they will need to jump on the back of All-Big Ten junior Carmelina Carabajal, who owns or is tied for the team’s top score in three of four events plus the all-around, this season.

Carabajal also has the team’s best average score on all four events: 9.774 on vault, 9.737 on bars, 9.777 on beam and 9.806 on floor.

In the 2008 season, Minnesota is 0-3 against teams competing in the North Central region meet. The Gophers lost to Utah on Feb. 1, to Iowa in a dual meet on Feb. 29 and to Iowa at the Big Ten Championship.

“We (Minnesota) have said this all year long: All we can do is all we can do,” Stephenson said. “In our sport, it’s all offense. Really, all we can control is what we do because we can’t defend against other teams.”

Minnesota has not faced Arkansas, Arizona or Southern Utah this season.

The top two team scores from Saturday’s meet qualify for the NCAA Championship, held on April 24-26 in Georgia.

Men earn NCAA Championship berth

The No. 8-ranked Minnesota men’s gymnastics team has been selected to compete at the 2008 National Collegiate Men’s Gymnastics Championships, the NCAA selection committee announced Tuesday afternoon.

The 66th Annual National Collegiate Men’s Gymnastics Championships will take place April 17-19 at Stanford, beginning with Thursday’s national qualifier.

The national qualifier consists of two sessions, with the top three teams in each session advancing to the NCAA team finals on Friday, April 18.