Gymnastics is a sport of perfection, but Minnesota’s 25th-ranked women’s gymnastics team wants to learn how to let loose a little more often and not worry so much about that.
Minnesota (5-6) lost to sixth-ranked Iowa State (7-0) on Saturday night at the Sports Pavilion (196.975-195.175). The Gophers fell behind early after the first two rotations and were never able to challenge the Cyclones.
“You can split it down the middle as far as events,” coach Jim Stephenson said. “Our vaulting and our bars were kind of a lackluster performance. They were almost being too careful and it cost them.”
Going into the meet, the Gophers were not at full strength, and winning was not a realistic goal for the squad.
“We were a little thin tonight, and we knew that we were in a bad spot going up against Iowa State to start with,” Stephenson said. “We really had no chance to beat Iowa State and we knew that right from the start.”
But what Minnesota did know was that it had a chance to bolster its team average. Posting a high home score was the main objective going into the competition, and it was something the Gophers were able to do.
The national qualifying score for the NCAA Championships is based on the three highest home and away scores for each team. The highest score is thrown out and the remaining five scores are averaged.
With a mark of 195.175 Saturday, Minnesota was able to drop a lower home score and improve its overall team average.
Now the Gophers want to work on the psychological part of their performance.
“Gymnastics is such a mental sport that being confident and knowing that you’re good can make a huge difference,” junior Carolyn Yernberg said. “It’s so easy to doubt yourself. Right now we are all physically able to do our gymnastics; it’s all in our heads. You have to trust your gymnastics.”
The lesson in confidence is something that sophomore Laura Johnson learned as well.
“Mentally I wasn’t prepared and I let myself get intimidated instead of being confident,” she said. “I learned that I need to stay within myself and I know I can do it.”
Minnesota’s coaching staff said they believe the mental part of gymnastics has to come from the athletes, and is not a lesson that can be instilled from outside sources. Stephenson said he hopes to see the athletes figure it out for themselves.
“Our main objective is going to be to not hold back and not be careful,” Stephenson said. “If they go hard the right way we’re going to do really well.”
Minnesota heads to Iowa on Friday to take on the Hawkeyes before a rematch with the Cyclones on Sunday.
Men’s gymnastics loses
Oklahoma’s third-ranked men’s gymnastics team defeated No. 7 Michigan, No. 8 Nebraska and No. 9 Minnesota on Saturday at the McCasland Field House with a season-high 221.475 score. Michigan finished second with a score of 218.225, followed by Nebraska (213.875) and the Gophers (210.700).
Individually, Minnesota was led by junior Guillermo Alvarez. Alvarez won the vault with a 9.425 and finished second on the floor exercise with a 9.50. Senior Mitch Griffin also captured an individual title by winning the pommel horse with a score of 9.550.