Men finish season on high note, women end meet in fifth place

Mark Heise

The Minnesota men’s gymnastics team didn’t win this year’s Big Ten Championship, but, climbing back into the top half of the conference with a third-place finish Friday night at the Sports Pavilion, the Gophers still got what they wanted.

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Minnesota found success in its two weakest areas, completing solid rotations on the rings and pommel horse, and pounded out a score of 215.25 to finish behind only Ohio State and Penn State in the meet.

“We all knew that we needed every single tenth and we needed every guy to hit for us to have a chance at the title,” senior Jake Lee said. “It was pretty exciting; most of the guys did the best they could do.”

The Gophers started off on rings, doing a good job of holding their strength positions to put up a quality score of 36.05. Junior Mitchell Mays led the way, scoring 9.3 while Lee contributed a 9.15.

Minnesota had an opportunity to distance itself from other teams on vault, but couldn’t do so as freshman Andre Berry just missed landing one of the more difficult vaults, sending the Gophers to a score of 35.65.

Mays and freshman Cole Storer led the way on vault, each with scores of 9.1.

Junior Sergei Dmitriev posted an impressive 9.4 to lead the way on the parallel bars and Minnesota’s team score of 35.75 helped the Gophers to keep pace with Michigan and Penn State, trailing by 0.65 with three events remaining.

Minnesota struggled to remain close to the leaders, losing some energy early in the rotation as the team suffered two falls. With another fall putting any championship hopes in serious jeopardy, Berry and Lee came through hitting their routines and scoring 8.4 and 9.2, respectively. The Gophers escaped the event with a score of 35.35.

“It’s always tough to be the one going after the guy that falls,” Berry said. “It’s just one of those things a teammate has to do, you’ve got to pick up the slack and it was really important for Jake (Lee) and I to do that at that point.”

The team rebounded well from a tough event, building momentum through the best floor rotation of the season. Sophomore Adam Reichow collected a career-high 9.6, while Storer added a 9.55.

“I was really impressed,” coach Mike Burns said of Reichow’s performance. “He’s got a fire burning inside of him and a desire to get better, and that’s what we saw out of him (Friday).”

Minnesota ended the event with 37.9 points, bringing its five-event total to 180.7, taking the lead by just over a point with one event remaining.

Unfortunately for the Gophers, the last event was pommel horse, their lowest-scoring event.

Sophomore Kit Beikmann had a dominating performance scoring a 9.0, while junior Steve Vuong contributed an 8.7.

Minnesota’s effort in the final event kept the Gophers ahead of a struggling Michigan squad, but wasn’t enough to jump ahead of the Buckeyes or Nittany Lions.

Individual success

Thanks to a surprising performance on pommel horse Saturday, Beikmann took home the Big Ten Individual Championship, becoming the first pommel horse champion from Minnesota since John Roethlisberger won the national championship in 1993.

“I felt pretty good from start to finish,” Beikmann said after struggling for words for a moment. “Standing up there representing Minnesota truly felt better than words can describe.”

Mays nearly won the vault championship, sticking the best vault of his career and receiving a score of 9.375, only to be ousted by the next performer, junior Tyler Yamauchi of Illinois. Mays finished second in the event.

Beikmann, Lee and Berry earned all-conference honors, while Berry also took home the award for freshman of the year.

Burns received an award for co-coach of the year.

Women struggle

The women’s team counted two falls on the balance beam, struggling at Penn State to finish fifth in the Big Ten after winning the championship a year earlier.

The Gophers scored just 193.225, including a season-low score of 47.3 on the beam.

Minnesota’s team score was the lowest since its debacle at the Best of Minnesota on Feb. 10 when the Gophers scored 191.625.

Sophomore Carmelina Carabajal finished eighth in the all around, scoring 38.775 over four events, while freshman Alexis Russell finished with 38.025 points.

Michigan won the meet with a score of 196.575