In 14 previous tries, the Gophers gymnastics team had been unsuccessful in earning a victory against Utah, a team whose reputation was only matched by its success. For a little while on Saturday, it looked as if the streak would be broken.
Entering the final rotation of the competition, Minnesota held a slim 145.575-145.550 advantage over the Utes. In the end, however, Utah displayed their overwhelming talent and depth on the balance beam, surging to an overall 194.6-194.175 advantage.
“We definitely had a chance to win,” junior Judy Cavazos said. Cavazos, one of the top all-around performers in the country, showed her versatility in the rotations and placed second in the competition with a score of 39.
Gophers co-coach Jim Stephenson was beaming with pride after the competition, and explained the magnitude of the Gophers ability to stay stride-for-stride with the Utes for the whole competition.
“It’s huge just to keep pace with (Utah),” Stephenson said. “They’re the best program in the history of collegiate women’s gymnastics.”
A large part of the Gophers’ strong overall showing came from the outstanding individual performances of Cavazos and first-year gymnast MaryAnne Kelley, who displayed a stunning array of moves in the floor competition.
“When MaryAnne Kelley is on the floor, it’s a different experience,” Stephenson said. “We have a couple of players who are capable of getting perfect scores, and MaryAnne is one of them.”
However, it was Cavazos who came through with strong performances in every event, placing first in the floor competition and tying for the top spot in the high bars. Her exhibition of skill, grace and speed was upstaged only by Utah’s Theresa Kulikowski, who edged Cavazos with a 39.150 overall score and won the competition’s MVP award.
“I’m happy with my performance tonight,” Cavazos said after the competition. “I like having consistency, and this makes me feel confident that I’m doing things right.”
“She’s got a look about her that’s unique,” Stephenson said of Cavazos. “It’s just her (great) presentation. I think both Kulikowski and Cavazos have a look about them that makes them so great.”
Stephenson credited Utah’s superior depth, especially on the balance beams, as the decisive advantage in the competition. Using Kulikowski and Shannon Bowles, whose 9.95 in the beams was the highest score in any event, the Utes were able to finish strong in the final rotation.
Still, co-coach Meg Stephenson said the confidence that the team gained from staying with a formidable Utah team would carry through for the remainder of the season.
“Overall, this is a great group,” she said. “We’ve got something great going, and we feel we’re ready to take on the rest of our schedule.”