Gymnasts record top score of year

Michael Dougherty

It was a night of season-high performances at the Sports Pavilion for the 10th-ranked Gophers women’s gymnastics team. The team dismantled visiting No. 20 Utah State by a score of 194.00 to 189.875 in front of 1,533 fans.
The Gophers’ score represents the second week in a row the team set a new season high. It topped last weekend’s score of 193.500 against 13th-ranked Ohio State.
In the final performance of the night, senior Mindy Knaeble turned in an almost flawless floor exercise routine, scoring a 9.90.
Co-head coach Jim Stephenson was most impressed by Knaeble’s season-high performance, but hinted that he thinks she should have received a better score.
“I think Mindy was really outstanding tonight,” Stephenson said. “In fact, there were a couple of people that thought she should have gotten a 10.”
Knaeble’s strong outing was coupled with senior Stacey Batza winning the balance beam by setting a career high with a score 9.85.
When asked the key to the victory, Stephenson credited Batza with providing the necessary spark which fired up the team.
“To see Stacey come through like she did after being our second person up after someone had just fallen really gave us a spark,” he said. “That was really the critical part of the competition.”
The Gophers swept the top three places in all four events, with Knaeble placing in three events and Melissa Chang and Judith Cavazos placing in two events.
With a 5-1 overall record and all five victories coming against ranked opponents, the Gophers are poised to head into Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday night for a competition with No. 2 Utah.
A victory over the Utes would prove to be bittersweet for Stephenson and his coaching partner and wife Meg. The two were assistants at Utah for four years before coming to Minnesota.
“It’s been six years since Meg and I coached at Utah,” Jim Stephenson said, “and we think we have a team that we can take back to Utah and beat them with.”
Knaeble added, “The crowd there is nice. I remember the last time we were there (when Knaeble was a freshman) they cheer whenever they see good gymnastics.”
Men’s gymnastics
Earlier in the day at the Sports Pavilion, Fred Roethlisberger’s 17th-ranked Gophers men’s gymnastics team fell 221.075-216.850 to third-ranked Illinois.
Despite the loss, some good individual performances were turned in as three Gophers captured individual event titles.
George Beatty, the senior co-captain, tied his career-high in winning the pommel horse with a score of 9.750.
Sophomores Ryan Winterbourne and Chad Conner also captured titles.
Winterbourne scored a 9.500 in winning the still rings and Conner won the horizontal bars with a score of 9.300.
Sophomore Lindsey Fang took second place in the all-around competition with a score of 54.500. The event was won by Illinois’ sophomore All-American Travis Romagnoli, who recorded a score of 55.225.
Roethlisberger’s squad tours the state of Michigan next weekend, facing Michigan State on Friday and Michigan on Sunday.