Women head to Missouri for NCAA Regionals

The Gophers will need to best tough competition if they want to advance to nationals.

Alexandra Pluym

The No. 25 womenâÄôs Gophers gymnastics team hopes this weekendâÄôs meet in Columbia, Mo., wonâÄôt be the last one of the season. MinnesotaâÄôs performance at SaturdayâÄôs NCAA Regionals will decide whether the team advances to the NCAA Championships, or if itâÄôs the end of the 2010 season . The Gophers will have to bring their best as they will be competing against No. 5 Georgia, No. 8 Oregon State, No. 15 Missouri (the host), conference-rival No. 30 Iowa and No. 36 North Carolina. âÄúI think we have to do more than weâÄôve done all season [to prepare for the Regionals],âÄù Gophers head coach Meg Stephenson said. âÄúWe have to put 100 percent commitment in.âÄù The top two teams in the regional advance, so the women will need high marks to best worthy opponents. However, if the Gophers do not advance, the top two all-around gymnasts not on the qualifying teams will advance to the national meet as individual all-around competitors . If Minnesota does not advance as a team, senior Alexis Russell has a chance to be one of the individuals that go on to nationals. Russell is in the top four among the gymnasts in the region and No. 24 in the nation with an average of 39.230 points. MissouriâÄôs Sarah Shire is No. 2 in the nation (39.590), Oregon StateâÄôs Mandi Rodriguez is No. 15 (39.405) and Rebecca Simbhudas from Iowa is No. 21 (39.295). Along with the GophersâÄô No. 25 overall rank in the nation, they are also tied for 18th on the uneven bars and tied for 20th on the balance beam. The Gophers do not rank in the top 25 on the vault or the floor exercise. Last season, Minnesota did not advance to the NCAAs when it was in the Iowa region and placed fifth (193.775). Stephenson said all the Gophers have to do is go in and do their best, especially when all that matters is that day âÄî not what theyâÄôve done in the regular season. âÄúWhen you get to regionals, itâÄôs new blood,âÄù she said. âÄúBig Tens, regionals and nationals are the meat. Regular season is the warm-up to get us prepared for the meat. ThatâÄôs what our seasonâÄôs about.âÄù Junior captain Kristin Furukawa, who will compete on the uneven bars and balance beam, said that she is ready to compete. âÄúOur goal is to go in and do what we do every single day,âÄù Furukawa said. âÄúWeâÄôve really been working hard on the little things.âÄù The final meet, for all gymnastics squads, will be the NCAA championship, which starts April 22 in Gainesville, Fla.