Trio of gymnasts lead U to NCAAs

Sam Campanaro

A laid-back attitude, big scores and consistent performances are the respective qualities Laura Johnson, Carolyn Yernberg and Mary Skokut bring to Minnesota’s women’s gymnastics team.

When mixed together, the traits and the women who possess them comprise the ideal personality for a gymnastics team.

The three were named to the All-Big Ten squad after posting solid conference seasons and strong performances at the Big Ten meet.

Johnson, Yernberg and Skokut are expected to carry over their regular-season success into this weekend as they travel to Utah for the NCAA regional championships.

“It will be nice to see how they fare with the neutral judging the regional championships provides at Utah,” coach Meg Stephenson said.

As for the three gymnasts, they hope to go in and surprise some people. Minnesota will be the underdog, going in as the 23rd-ranked team in the nation.

Stanford, ranked sixth, and host Utah, ranked eighth, will be the top teams most likely to qualify for the NCAA meet from the North Central region.

The excitement for the Gophers comes from being invited to the regional and looking forward to another chance to compete.

Johnson will likely be the only Minnesota gymnast competing in the all-around at the regional. As a freshman she had six top-three finishes as an all-around competitor.

For Johnson, gymnastics is her fun time. In competitions and in practice she tries not to take things too seriously.

“She keeps the mood light,” Skokut said.

A light mood will be important this weekend. The Gophers will feel the pressure the atmosphere of a regional championship creates.

As a sophomore and having been to regional championships before, Yernberg said she tried to explain the intensity of the meet to the freshmen.

As Yernberg competes in the regional meet, she has big scores to defend. She scored a 9.925 twice on vault this season and scored a career best 9.95 on floor.

Her high scores help to acknowledge Minnesota’s ever-strengthening program.

Skokut has continually shown the growth that Gophers gymnasts experience as they become more seasoned.

Specializing on bars and beam, she placed first three times on bars and twice on beam during the regular season.

“Mary’s the kind of person that no matter what happens in practice or what happens in warm-ups she will go in and hit in a meet,” Yernberg said.

Individual success is not the focus for these women, however. Johnson, Yernberg and Skokut emphasized that they want to do the best they can do for their team.

Yernberg said big meets are less nerve-wracking if they think about the team.

Stephenson also stressed the importance every gymnast plays for the upcoming meet.

She said the main objective for the Gophers is to go in and hit 24 solid routines.

The light heart, big scores and consistency come from three of Minnesota’s top gymnasts, but that’s with a warning.

“With gymnastics, you never know,” Skokut said. “It’s anyone’s meet.”