Gophers gymnastics recruits will flex potential at U.S. Championships

Incoming freshmen Crew Bold and Donte McKinney will compete at the championships this August.

<p>Incoming freshmen Crew Bold, left and Donte McKinney pose for a portrait after practice at Cooke Hall on Tuesday, July 16. Both have qualified for the junior U.S. Championships in August.</p>

Tony Saunders

Incoming freshmen Crew Bold, left and Donte McKinney pose for a portrait after practice at Cooke Hall on Tuesday, July 16. Both have qualified for the junior U.S. Championships in August.

John Miller

The Gophers’ men’s gymnastics team’s 2019 recruiting class has made waves on the national stage before even suiting up in maroon and gold.

Incoming freshmen Crew Bold and Donte McKinney have qualified for the junior U.S. Championships in August. Head coach Mike Burns said he is excited to have two major recruits coming in to help the program, especially at a time when men’s gymnastics is competing at a higher level than ever before. 

Both gymnasts are expected to compete right away in the fall of 2019. Despite being freshmen, Burns has high expectations and will rely on them heavily.

“I envision both of those guys probably doing the all-around during the course of the season, with the idea that they hopefully would be competing in the Big Ten Championships and the NCAA Championships to see if they can qualify high enough to be All-Americans in the all-around,” said Burns. 

Bold and McKinney have begun working with the program over the last few weeks and they’re putting their skills on display for the rest of the team to see.

“As we have gotten to work with them over the course of the last five [to] six weeks, I’ve been really impressed with their abilities, their attitudes, their display of power. They have a lot of power,” Burns said. “The rest of the guys in the gym are just like, ‘Wow, that guy is really good. I didn’t know he was that good.’”

Bold, who is from Delray Beach, Florida, was given a training program by Burns to help him in his quest to reach the U.S. Championships. 

“They helped my mentality of the sport,” Bold said. 

Burns not only looks to bolster gymnasts’ routines, but he knows that they need to be strong mentally in order to be successful. He is helping McKinney regain confidence while coming back from a broken leg in preparation for the U.S. Championships. 

“It was a rough time period,” McKinney said about dealing with his broken leg. Qualifying for the competition was bittersweet. “I was happy, it was my second time making it,” he said.

Both players have come a long way to compete at the University of Minnesota. Burns has tried to establish a culture that makes recruits feel welcome. 

“I love the coaches here,” McKinney, the Cameron, North Carolina native, said. “I came up here during the summer last year. I just absolutely loved it. I loved gym, the people, the teammates, everyone here. The school is really is good for what I want to study: kinesiology.”

That sentiment was echoed by Bold.

“When I came on my trip and I visited after my trip, this whole team seemed so close,” he said. “Just the energy between everybody while training, not only training and competitions as well, but outside of the gym it just seemed like a great place.”

Working with the upperclassmen has made McKinney and Bold realize they need to put in the work to succeed.

“It motivates you to practice even more, train harder,” McKinney said. “The guys are a great group of guys, they all push each other, just that whole environment and then knowing what you want to strive for just makes it even better.”

The upperclassman pushing the underclassman is just what Burns wants from his team as he looks to continue building the program.

“We want guys to stay hungry when they’re in the gym,” Burns said. “You want kids that are willing to put the time and effort in and do the extra turns.”