Gophers handle pommel horse, post season high

Minnesota men’s gymnastics coach Mike Burns joked earlier in the season about placing tacks around the pommel horse in practice to try and force his gymnasts to not fall off the event.

The Gophers have struggled to stay on the pommel horse all season, often having to count a missed routine toward their final team score.

But tacks or not, something changed Saturday.

Only one competitor fell, and three gymnasts nailed their routines to lead Minnesota to its best score of the season in a 220.175-216.625 loss to No. 3 Oklahoma at the Sports Pavilion.

“Once you start hitting like that (on pommel horse), it becomes a little infectious,” Burns said. “It builds that confidence.”

Minnesota earned three of the top four scores on the pommel horse, led by senior Guillermo Alvarez, who won with a score of 9.525.

Jake Lee and Justin Meyer scored 9.350 and 9.250, respectively.

“I think that pumped the team up, especially on an event like pommel horse,” Alvarez said. “To have almost all the team stay on and hit, it’s great.”

Alvarez posted another strong performance in his last home meet at Minnesota.

He scored a career-best 55.550 in winning the all-around title, while also earning event titles in the floor exercise (9.600), and vault (9.575) to go along with the pommel horse.

Senior Clinton Mays was also successful in his last performances at the Sports Pavilion, taking second place in both the still rings and vault with scores of 9.575 and 9.300, respectively.

Burns was confident the meet will carry over as Minnesota approaches the Big Ten Championships at the end of March.

“It’s all starting to fall into place,” Burns said. “It’s all part of the grand plan.”

Women beat Iowa

Minnesota’s women’s gymnastics team recorded its best team scores of the season in the uneven bars and floor exercise en route to defeating Iowa 195.775-195.425 on Saturday at the Sports Pavilion.

The victory was the first of the season for the Gophers in dual meets.

Junior Laura Johnson won the all-around for the Gophers, scoring 39.250, her highest of the season.

“Tonight was our best performance to date, as far as the team as a whole,” Minnesota co-coach Meg Stephenson said.

Minnesota took the top three spots in both the parallel bars and floor exercise.

The Gophers hit every routine, the first meet the team has recorded no falls.

Carolyn Yernberg won the floor exercise with a score of 9.900 and tied with Johnson for second on vault with a score of 9.850.

“We’re a little deeper this year than we’ve been in the last two years, and that makes a big difference,” Stephenson said.

“The team is good. To make the lineup, you’ve got to really be something.”