U vaunts much improved team

Susan Filkins

After only its second meet, the women’s gymnastics team is proving to everyone just how much potential it has this season.
The No. 23-ranked Gophers hosted the Best of Minnesota meet Saturday night at the Sports Pavilion in front of 2,685 people. This marks one of the largest crowds in team history at the Pavilion.
The Gophers took first place with a team score of 192.825. Following Minnesota was Winona State, Hamline, and Gustavus Adolphus. Minnesota expected to defeat all three schools in the meet, but its performance was far better than just a victory.
The Gophers received the highest scores in all four events, including the all-around. Several records were either tied or broken in the meet as well.
Minnesota’s biggest weakness has always been the vault, but the team finished with its fifth highest score of all time. Kim Sveum, a vaulting specialist, led all Gophers with a 9.775. Gophers coach Jim Stephenson was especially pleased with his team’s performance in this area.
“We have been working on our vaulting for five years because when I got here it was the weakest event,” Stephenson said. “It is the hardest event for a college team to be good at. Right now we have seven people to choose from who are good vaulters.”
The uneven bars were a much stronger apparatus for the Gophers after struggling on the event at the intrasquad meet last week. Senior Kristen Vandersall led all Gophers, followed by sophomore Cathy Keyser and junior Lacey Purkat, who also received high scores for Minnesota.
The balance beam often presents havoc for Minnesota, but the Gophers met the challenge with only a couple of minor miscues. “We are a very experienced group on balance beam,” Stephenson said. “It has been our strongest event. We are off to a good start there, but the potential is a lot higher than what we showed (Saturday).”
The floor exercise always is the Gophers’ strongest event, which was especially true in this meet. Knaeble tied her personal best and a school record, by receiving a 9.9 on her floor routine.
“It felt wonderful,” Knaeble said. “I’ve been having trouble with my second pass, and I really hit it (Saturday). It felt really good.”
Senior co-captain Jonda Hammons also tied her personal best score on floor, scoring a 9.875.
“It was exciting,” Hammons said. “When people start hitting from routine to routine, it creates an energy that we all thrive off of, and I think it just falls from one person to another.”
The Gophers will meet their first true test of competition next weekend as they face fifth-ranked Michigan, the defending Big Ten Champion, in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“People have different goals for Michigan,” Hammons said. “We need to get more consistent, and I think get more confident in ourselves and not (believe) we are the Gophers and we will do OK, but we’re the Gophers and we can beat Michigan.”