Freshmen women gymnasts star in intrasquad

by Susan Filkins

Anticipation and excitement filled the Sports Pavilion on Saturday night as the Gophers women’s gymnastics team opened its season with its annual intrasquad meet.
The intrasquad meet gave Minnesota a chance to compete in front of an audience and judges before it hosts the Best of Minnesota meet Saturday.
Four new freshman joined an experienced team returning two seniors, six juniors and two sophomores. Coach Jim Stephenson is excited about the talent of his freshman class and thought they excelled in the intrasquad meet.
“I think they did well. Being a first-year student at a university, there are so many changes that go on,” Stephenson said. “You have to find new places to fit in. It is especially demanding on their time and energy. It is also demanding on them emotionally, it’s hard to fit in.
“(The freshman) got to experience the seriousness of competition. We like to have fun with our gymnastics, but at a competitive level it is a very serious thing, and expectations are very high.”
Cami Phillippi, a native of Roseville, joins the Gophers as the only freshman to come from Minnesota after being chosen Minnesota’s United States Gymnastics Federation Gymnast of the Year in 1994 and 1996. Kristi Selinger, originally from Aurora, Colo., will compete for the Gophers after reaching the USGF nationals in 1994 and 1995 and being named a USGF finalist on vault in 1994.
Melissa Chang comes to Minnesota from Blue Springs, Mo., after participating in the National Junior Olympics from 1992 through 1995. And lastly, Judith Cavazos, of Monterrey, Mexico, joins the team after recently being admitted to the University and becoming eligible to compete. Cavazos was the No. 1 female gymnast in Mexico and a five-time member of the Mexican National Team.
Each of the four freshman tested their skills on each event, except for Phillippi who did not vault. In their first collegiate meet, the newcomers quickly realized that practice is world’s apart from competing in front of an audience on center stage.
“I was very excited and also nervous,” Cavazos said. “It was a wonderful experience. I am discovering more and more good things about the team.”
“It was fun.” Phillippi said. “It’s fun being on a university team where the audience gets pumped up and stuff. I am excited for the next meet now because I know what it is going to be like.”
The team divided into two teams led by senior co-captains Jonda Hammons and Kristen Vandersall. Scores were recorded but did not count toward school records.
The top finisher on the vault was junior Stacey Batza with a 9.725, followed by juniors Mindy Knaeble and Kim Sveum, who tied at 9.625.
After several miscues and falls off the uneven bars, it was Cavazos who finished first in the event with a 9.675. Junior Lacey Purkat and Chang were tied at 9.5.
It was the same scenario on the beam, where four gymnasts fell off the apparatus. Knaeble managed to hold her balance to finish with the top score of 9.725. She was followed by Selinger with a 9.4 and sophomore Jenny Mazzone at 9.35.
Knaeble, last year’s Big Ten champion on floor exercise, also tied for first on the floor exercise with Vandersall at 9.65. Cavazos finished just behind them with a 9.6.
The all-around scoring included only four gymnasts who competed in all four events. Knaeble finished first with a combined score of 38. Following her were the three freshman: Cavazos with 37.175, Chang with 36.975, and Selinger with 36.95.
“We did a good job,” Stephenson said. “But our capability is much more than what we tried to show at this time. We actually held back a little bit, so consequently we will have a much higher scoring potential.”