Women set to land at Big Ten meet

Senior Alexis Russell hopes to improve on last season’s fourth-place all-around finish.

Alexandra Pluym

Now that the regular season has come to a close, the Gophers womenâÄôs gymnastics team turns its attention to the Big Ten championships. Minnesota consistently improved in recent weeks and seeks equal or better performances at the conference championships at 1 p.m. Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. âÄúIf we hit 24 for 24 IâÄôm going to be really happy, and I think they are too,âÄù Gophers head coach Meg Stephenson said . Minnesota hit 22 of 24 routines last Saturday against Iowa State, so itâÄôs headed in the right direction. The Gophers were focused on the regular season until the end, but theyâÄôve had goals for the postseason for a while. âÄúOur biggest goals are winning Big Tens, doing well at regionals, and qualifying for NCAAs,âÄù said senior Alexis Russell , who was an All-Big Ten first-team selection before the 2009 championships and has a good chance at landing one of the 20 spots on this yearâÄôs all-conference teams. Russell finished fourth all-around last year with a score of 39.450. MinnesotaâÄôs Carmelina Carabajal was the 2009 all-around champion as a senior. RussellâÄôs performances this season indicate she could finish near the top again. âÄúIâÄôve been really consistent this year, and that was something that was a huge goal of mine,âÄù she said. RussellâÄôs success will help boost the team this weekend, but she sees potential for solid performances from the rest of the team also. âÄú[WeâÄôre] ready to go out there and do the gymnastics that we know weâÄôre capable of doing,âÄù she said. The Gophers finished fourth at last yearâÄôs championships with 196 points, which came behind Michigan (197.075), Illinois (196.75) and Penn State (196.525). Last year, Minnesota scored over 49 points on all events except the floor, where they scored 48.825. But the floor has been the teamâÄôs best event recently, as the GophersâÄô have had their best event score come on the floor two of the last three weeks. Minnesota will have to do quite a bit to earn this yearâÄôs championship, as No. 9 Michigan seeks its fourth-straight conference title . The Wolverines have already defeated No. 13 Illinois, No. 25 Michigan State , Ohio State and the Gophers this season. Although the postseason carries the utmost importance, Stephenson said the team isnâÄôt going to do anything differently in practice. âÄúWe canâÄôt put more time in. We really believe in recovery time,âÄù she said. âÄúWe always try to focus on quality time. This week weâÄôll continue to focus on that.âÄù The Gophers have high hopes of hitting all their routines, but their main concern is to do the best they can. âÄúOur goal is to always do well at Big Ten and qualify to nationals,âÄù Stephenson said. âÄúAll weâÄôre hoping to do is go out and hit our stuff. We canâÄôt control the other teams and how they do, but we can control how we do.âÄù