Gymnastics teams improve over weekend

by Jill Shirley

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel for the Minnesota women’s gymnastics team.
“We had some falls (on the balance beam), but it was better than last week,” co-coach Jim Stephenson said.
The beam performance still gave the Gophers their lowest score of the meet with a 47.675. But with only three falls and a score higher than last week’s, Minnesota hopes the clouds will break in time for the Big Ten championships as well as the nationals.
Minnesota tallied 194.450 points to Boise State’s 193.350. The Gophers were buoyed by their performances on the uneven bars, highlighted by junior Megan Skokut’s 9.9 routine. The mark is a personal record for Skokut and the best score she has received all season.
Minnesota came into the meet looking to score 195 or better to solidify an NCAA berth. The score may not be quite a 195, but it’s close enough.
“We got a score that is going to help us,” Jim Stephenson said. “It was a good performance by a great team.”
“We were better on beam, and that’s still our trouble spot,” co-coach Meg Stephenson said, “but we were better on vault, we were way better on bars, and we were as good, if not better, on floor, so it was definitely an improvement.”
The Gophers placed first in every event except balance beam and they nabbed seven personal records.
Minnesota will now gear up for its last meet next week against Iowa State. A win against them would give the Gophers much satisfaction.
“I don’t think there is a stronger rivalry than Minnesota-Iowa State in gymnastics,” Jim Stephenson said.
Things seem to be getting better for Minnesota, but the question is are the co-coaches confident now about their chances in the NCAA championships?
“We’re never confident,” Jim Stephenson said laughing. “We’ve seen some strange things happen.”
Men’s gymnastics
The Gophers men’s gymnastics team had its best meet of the year Saturday.
The final score against Illinois-Chicago was 226.175 to 217.70. Minnesota hadn’t scored above a 224 in over three years.
“The team score of 226 was especially exciting,” junior Allen Sopko said. “We still know we can do better, and it is now becoming expected every time.”
The Gophers swept the meet, placing first in every event. Freshman phenom Clay Strother didn’t break any records Saturday, but he did place first in the all-around with a score of 56.675 — a personal record for Strother.
Minnesota also had its highest event totals of the year in floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings and vault. The Gophers set 11 personal records on the day.
Up next for Minnesota is a home meet with Nebraska on Saturday. The team hopes that their strong performances against Illinois-Chicago will help increase attendance for their last meet.