Calgary nips Minnesota after U alum’s showing on high-bar

Minnesota graduate Jake Lee scored a 14.350 in the event for the Dinosaurs.

Luke Middendorf

The Minnesota men’s gymnastics team welcomed some prehistoric competition into the Sports Pavilion on Saturday as the Calgary Dinosaurs stamped into town.

It was a close battle that came down to the very last event, but the Dinos’ collection of Olympians and national champions eventually chomped down on the Gophers by way of a slim 342.800-341.800 win.

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“It was a great opportunity to bring an international team into the pavilion here,” Minnesota’s head coach Mike Burns said.

One of Calgary’s nine gymnasts was former Gophers All-American Jake Lee, a graduate of Minnesota who is training for the Winter Cup that will be held in two weeks.

Burns said the Dinosaurs were low on numbers, so he told Lee to compete for them Saturday to get some practice for his upcoming meet. He didn’t know, however, that Lee’s scores would eventually be a major factor in the Gophers’ loss.

The addition of Lee to Calgary’s high-bar event gave the Dinosaurs a fifth competitor when only four scores officially count. When Lee scored a 14.350 Calgary’s lowest individual score of 10.60 on the event did not factor in to the final score.

“Jake was the one who bit us in the butt,” Burns said, smiling and shaking his head. “He was the one who put them over the top.”

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The other main advantage that the Dinosaurs brought to town came through current Canadian all-around champion Nathan Gafuik, who was also a member of both the 2006 and 2007 World Championship teams.

Gafuik’s experience and naturally gifted abilities shone through for first-place finishes in the floor exercise, pommel horse, vault and also the all-around.

It was easy to see that Gafuik’s specialty was in the floor exercise, as his graceful motions and high-flying maneuvers were literally heads and shoulders above the competition.

“You watch him on the floor and you go, ‘Wow, he’s world class,’ ” Burns said about Gafuik. “He’s an upper-caliber gymnast for sure. He will probably make their Olympic team this upcoming summer.”

But even though the challenge was intense on the mats, ending with a Calgary victory, Burns said that the Gophers will still embrace their Dinosaur friends from the north.

“The thing that is so interesting about our sport is our close community,” Burns said after the meet. “We’ll certainly break bread with them even though they beat us. We’re not going to take them into the back alley and beat them up or anything, instead we’ll take them out for a bite to eat.”

Women nab close win

Only a few hours after the men’s close loss to Calgary, the Minnesota women’s gymnastics squad got in a heated battle of their own in the Sports Pavilion.

But unlike their male counterparts, the women were able to come out on the winning side of the scoring sheet with a narrow 193.775-193.625 victory over Iowa State.

“This margin is like someone slipping a basket in when the buzzer is going off,” Gophers co-head coach Jim Stephenson said about the close win.

Leading the way for Minnesota was junior Carmelina Carabajal, who nailed career bests on the beam (9.875) and on the uneven bars (9.800).

The main ingredient that Stephenson said aided the Gophers on Saturday was their improvement from last weeks meet against New Hampshire, which he said came from lots of hard work during the week.

“That’s all we can really affect is our personal progress,” Stephenson said. “We are up two points from last week, and in gymnastics two points is huge.”

Another deciding factor for the Gophers on Saturday was the crowd support, something that Stephenson said he has come to expect from Gophers fans.

“We’re in a hotbed of gymnastics here in Minnesota,” Stephenson said. “These people really know gymnastics, and as the head coach I am really pleased to see that these fans are so well-behaved and so knowledgeable.”