Everything came down to the final routine when Minnesota’s men’s gymnastics team faced Nebraska in the Gophers’ last home performance of the year Saturday at the Sports Pavilion.
And although it was Senior Day, the Gophers’ fate rested on the shoulders of a freshman.
Jacob Lee’s performance on the high bars did not disappoint. After flawlessly executing his routine, Lee dismounted to a crescendo of cheers and stuck his landing to give No. 11 Minnesota an impressive victory over No. 8 Nebraska 212.725-211.450.
“As I was swinging, I could hear everyone cheer for me, and I really wanted to hit,” Lee said. “It felt great.”
The dual featured even more ups and downs than Lee’s performance, and after a shaky showing on the floor exercise and pommel horse, coach Fred Roethlisberger was happy that the Gophers were still in position to win.
“(The floor exercise and pommel horse) were just horrid. I felt like I wanted to crawl into a hole,” Roethlisberger said. “Going in to the high bar I put pressure on them. I said, ‘You guys have one more chance.’ “
Guillermo Alvarez was part of the reason Minnesota remained competitive throughout. The junior won his second consecutive all-around title with a score of 55.050.
Seniors Jeff Cohen, Mitch Griffin and Gabe Suarez were also major contributors. All three scored for the Gophers. Griffin placed second in the vault and first in the high bar.
“You always kind of dream about it going down to the wire like it did today,” Griffin said. “It was an awesome way to go out.”
Women improve position
Minnesota’s women’s gymnastics team nearly pulled off its own dramatic comeback Saturday.
The Gophers concluded their meet with Nebraska when Carolyn Yernberg dazzled the crowd with a 9.950 score on the floor exercise. Yernberg’s performance put Minnesota in a virtual photo-finish with the Cornhuskers, but the Gophers fell 196.750-196.625.
Despite the loss, the Gophers finished with their second-highest score of the season, and the fifth-highest total in team history.
Coach Jim Stephenson said the performance would move the team up the national rankings with only two weeks left before Minnesota hosts the Big Ten Tournament.
“We’re going to be everything we can be at the most important time of the year,” he said.
Sophomore Laura Johnson was a big factor in the Gophers’ final tally with a second-place finish in the all-around, but she said it was all for the seniors.
“All the underclassmen were just like, ‘We’ve got to do it for them,’ ” she said. “We made extra sure we were going to nail tonight.”
Seniors Mary Skokut and Alicia Opsahl also did it for themselves. Opsahl finished third in the all-around and Skokut was second in the uneven bars.
“I said before the meet, ‘If you’re doing it for us, just go out and do what you always do,’ ” Skokut said. “And they did, so it was great.”