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Gophers finish strong on floor exercise, top Illinois

The men’s team competed without three of its regular contributors and lost.

The Gophers women’s gymnastics team outlasted Illinois on Saturday night at the Sports Pavilion, pulling away in the final rotation to notch a 196.775-196.35 victory.

Minnesota won all four events as a team and individuals won three of the four events.

The score was tied after three rotations, but Minnesota used a strong floor score to pull away. All five Gophers gymnasts scored 9.8 or higher on floor and bars.

Coach Meg Stephenson said she’s pleased with the team’s level of performance at this point of the season. Minnesota had one fall of the night, one short of the team’s overall goal to hit all 24 routines.

The night started a little quieter than usual. Stephenson said the team could’ve been better in warm-ups, and senior Janell Campbell said the team wasn’t as vocal early on. But by the end of the meet on floor exercise, both the crowd and the Gophers were getting into the meet.

The floor continues to be an asset to Minnesota, especially at home.

Campbell said the gymnasts know they can put up big scores when they end a meet on floor because they’re relaxed.

“It’s just awesome to exert that energy and that motivation,” Campbell said. “To end on floor is just a fun event because you get to put everything out on the line.”

Sophomore Jenny Covers said the team’s passion for gymnastics is noticeable on floor because of the effort put into performing it.

Covers, who was out of the lineup last week with a slight concussion, responded this week by winning the vault competition and finishing third in the all-around.

“I think what you can learn about [Covers] tonight is that she is a competitor,” Stephenson said. “She doesn’t let obstacles get in her way.”

Covers said she was in a little bit of pain Saturday but was pleased with her performance.

Freshman Hanna Nordquist replaced junior Kayla Slechta, one of the team’s top contributors on three events, on floor. Stephenson said Slechta has been “a little bit more sore lately” and didn’t want to risk anything by using her at this point in the season.

Campbell and sophomore Cierra Tomson shared the top score on bars. Tomson’s 9.9 score is a career high.

Sophomore Kylie Schermann ended the meet for Minnesota with a solid floor routine. Her 9.925 score tied for first on the event and set a career high.

Short-staffed men lose at Iowa

The Gophers men’s team fell to Iowa on Friday afternoon in a low-scoring affair in Iowa City, Iowa.

Minnesota competed without three of its regular contributors, who were in Las Vegas to compete in the Winter Cup. The Gophers scored their lowest point total of the season, 419.45, in the loss.

Iowa won four of the six events and dominated on parallel bar and high bar, outscoring the Gophers by about four-and-a-half points in the two events combined.

Minnesota had the top-four scores on floor and three of the top-four scores on vault to outscore the Hawkeyes by about five points.

The pommel horse made the difference, as Iowa outscored Minnesota by more than three points.

Pommel horse has been a struggle for the Gophers all season, and the team scored a season-low on it Friday.

“It was a train wreck,” coach Mike Burns said of the team’s performance on pommel horse.

The Gophers had three gymnasts fall on pommel horse and counted four missed routines of the night.

“If you count a point on each [miss], that would have been the difference,” Burns said.

Junior Adam Kern said the pommel horse is the toughest event in gymnastics because of the precision and touch it requires.

Kern said Friday was a “gut-check” kind of day because so many athletes were under the weather.

“Sometimes you need these types of weeks where you’re just feeling the lowest of low,” he said. “That way you can really learn to appreciate how good it feels to win.”

Kern won the vault despite shaking as he prepared to run toward the horse. He also tied for second on floor with teammate junior Josh Wokurka.

Wokurka became the first Gophers gymnast to compete in the all-around this season. He scored 82.9 to finish second behind Iowa’s Javier Balboa.

Junior John Scallon finished fourth on pommel horse in his return to the lineup. He had battled a wrist injury the last two weeks.

Freshman Michael Farquhar finished third on still rings after missing last week’s meet.

The men will look to improve their performance next week in Oklahoma. 

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