Gophers gymnastics teams to take on talented foes over the weekend

Michael Dougherty

Head coach Fred Roethlisberger and his squad have had two weeks off from competition, which is something they sorely needed.
The 12th-ranked Gophers are in an unenviable position as they host No. 10 Nebraska Friday night and No. 2 Iowa on Sunday. Both meets will be at the Sports Pavilion.
Roethlisberger said the two weeks off have helped build confidence in a squad that needs a boost.
“We’ve been hitting on only 50 to 60 percent of our events, and that’s been killing us,” Roethlisberger said. “Our hope is that we can hit on 80 percent and score a 227 or 228.”
Nebraska and Iowa are the only teams in the nation to have broken the 230-point barrier this season.
Despite its No. 12 ranking, Roethlisberger’s squad is in the bottom half of the standings in the Big Ten conference, which is something he does not like.
“I’ve never been in the bottom of the Big Ten standings in my 27 years here,” Roethlisberger said. “It is something my stomach is not ready to take.”
With the two weeks off from competition, Roethlisberger has pushed his squad hard in practice to try to build up some confidence. But he’s not sure if that confidence will show through against tough opponents like Nebraska and Iowa.
“With good practices we have been feeling a little better about ourselves,” he said. “But it would be devastating if we fell on our backs this weekend.”
Roethlisberger said inconsistency in various events have hampered the team.
“The pommel horse and the parallel bars are making us win,” he said, “while the rings and the floor exercise have been helping us lose.”
The Gophers are ranked first in the country on the pommel horse as senior co-captain George Beatty and junior Jason Krob are tied for No. 8 nationally. Beatty is ranked third in the nation on the parallel bars.
So with those events providing some solid point scoring for Roethlisberger, he has turned his attention to improving the routines on the rings and the floor exercise.
Part of the reason they have been weak in those events is injuries. They have played the biggest part in the sub-par season, as Dan Boots, Todd Guilbeau and co-captain Bob Hubbard have all been unable to compete this season.
Women’s gymnastics
Co-head coach Jim Stephenson is also facing some adversity as his club heads into the Iowa meet on Saturday with some nagging injuries.
Stephenson’s squad has been relatively healthy all season. But a few gymnasts got hurt in last weekend’s meet, and things were not looking particularly good at the beginning of the week.
“The report from the training room has gone from us being on a thin wire to a narrow bridge,” Stephenson said.
Seniors Kim Sveum and Molly Umland both have sore lower backs, which limit their ability for complete range of motion — an obvious necessity for a gymnast.
In order to allow his gimpy athletes some healing time, Stephenson has taken it easy on them in practice this week in hopes of a healthy meet against Iowa.
The 11th-ranked Gophers edged Iowa earlier in the season by .45 points, and Stephenson said Iowa has steadily improved over the last month.
The Hawkeyes have one of the country’s best all-arounders in freshman Giselle Boniforti, and she understandably worries Stephenson.
“Last time she scored a 39.225 in the all around against us,” he said. “If she has another good competition, she could pull the rest of her team along with her.”
The Gophers have set season highs in point totals in three of the last four meets, and they always perform well at home.