Many coaches say that the best teams are those that don’t play down to the level of their competition, but always compete to the best of their ability.
what: Women’s gymnastics
when: 5 p.m., Saturday
where: Ann Arbor, Mich.
That mindset was put to the test on Saturday night during the Best of Minnesota women’s gymnastics meet, an event featuring the Gophers, Gustavus, Hamline and Winona State.
Although all four programs are considered the best in the state, there is one that is considerably advantaged in its array of talent and ability – the University of Minnesota.
what: Men’s gymnastics
when: 7 p.m., Saturday
where: Sports Pavilion
That advantage, combined with a self-motivated mindset, was seen clearly in the Gophers’ season-best score of 194.275, a mark that was nearly eight points above the nearest competition.
“(Minnesota) is very good at putting themselves in a bubble and not worrying what is going on outside of it,” Gophers co-head coach Jim Stephenson said. “In a sport that’s a performing art, you need to not let those things distract you. Some teams let that get to them and they self-destruct.”
On the other side of the competitive spectrum was last week’s meet at Utah. Minnesota saw a similar type of crowd, but a very different type of opponent in the No. 2 ranked team in the nation.
But Stephenson said that his team does not worry about anything the competition is doing, whether they are much better or worse than the Gophers are.
“It doesn’t matter if they are competing against a Div. II team or the No. 2 ranked team in Div. I, they shut that out,” Stephenson said. “They’re really good about that kind of focus. This was good practice for us tonight, and at Utah, to stay in that bubble and to not let anything in or notice anything that’s going on outside of it.”
One of the main advantages in having the smaller in-state schools compete in the Sports Pavilion, Stephenson said, is that all of the visiting schools brought another 1,000 fans to add to total of 2,685 that attended Saturday’s meet.
“This place was packed tonight, it was great,” Stephenson said. “They did us a favor, because our team loves the energy that a crowd that size brings.”
That energy boost shined through as the Gophers marked improvements on the bars, the floor exercise and the vault, with many of the gymnasts recording career-high scores.
With freshman Jamie Bullock, freshman Kendra Elm, freshman Kristin Furukawa, freshman Yuri Nagai and junior Carmelina Carabajal all with career bests Saturday, Minnesota was able to also set the season-best score on the event with a 49.050. It was also the best bar score for the Gophers since March of 2006.
For Bullock, it was her first time on the bars since last season when she went down with a hip injury. But Minnesota warmly welcomed her back, as she performs a special skill that she designed and was later named after her, called “the Bullock.”
“It’s the first thing I do in my routine,” Bullock said. “I performed it first in nationals, and it got named after my junior year in high school. Now it’s cool to see other people try and do your own skill.”
Gophers men stay home
It was not because of the cold weather, but rather some injuries that kept sophomores Cole Storer and Andre Berry from participating in the Winter Cup in Las Vegas this weekend.
Storer suffered a slight knee injury during warm-ups and was held out of competition, while Berry stayed home in the Twin Cities to rest several minor injuries that needed some additional down-time this week.