Gymnastics prepare for final season meets

Jill Shirley

For the four seniors on Minnesota’s women’s gymnastics team, Saturday’s final home meet comes with mixed emotions.
“It’s sad to be done,” senior Cami Phillippi said. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years out of 22.”
The Gophers go up against Iowa State this weekend, one of Minnesota’s biggest rivals.
The Gophers host the NCAA regionals on April 1, and because of that, the seniors don’t feel Saturday is really the end of their life-long passion.
“Since we have regionals here, it doesn’t really feel like it’s the last time,” senior Judy Cavazos said, “(though) it’s exciting because it’s the formal saying goodbye.”
As for the competition with Iowa State, the Gophers hope to not only beat the Cyclones, but nab the score of 195 they’ll need to qualify for nationals.
To do that, co-coach Meg Stephenson hopes the intense training on balance beam, a season-long problem spot, will come through for Minnesota.
“They want it,” Stephenson said. “I’ve never doubted their ability or their talent, but they’ve been much more aggressive on beam. I’m hopeful they’ll carry that into the meet.”
Part of the training included a “team beam,” where every gymnast had to hit their routine perfectly the first time or they started all over again. According to Stephenson, the women succeeded on their first try.
While it figures to be an emotional night, the Gophers are hoping to score high while enjoying their final meet.
“We’ve been doing this all our lives,” senior Melissa Chang said, “so I’m sure it’ll be a change. But we had a good season, and we’re just going to go out there and have fun.”
Men’s gymnastics
The Gophers men’s gymnastics team can’t wait to meet Nebraska on Saturday for the first time this season.
Nebraska has been one of the best men’s gymnastics teams in the nation over the last 20 years. The Cornhuskers have also been consistently scoring around 225, a score Minnesota finally topped for the first time in three years last weekend against Illinois-Chicago.
“We look forward to meeting teams outside the Big Ten,” coach Fred Roethlisberger said. “Nebraska’s from the western region. We’d like to think the Big Ten’s a bit stronger than the West Region as a whole.”
The home meet will be the last for the seniors, though it doesn’t seem as if it’s hit them yet.
“I haven’t really thought of it too much,” Chad Conner said. “I’m just looking forward to beating Nebraska, (and) to the NCAAs being my last meet (rather than) the last home meet.”
It may be the last meet, but it’s not the last chance Minnesota has to qualify for nationals. The score the Gophers receive at the Big Ten championship also gets thrown into the stew.
The Gophers hope they will be able to score at least a 225 against Nebraska, as well as in the Big Ten meet. They are still ranked 11th, which puts them near the bottom edge of the 12 that go to nationals. A 225 would not only keep them on the cusp, it would mean a lot to the seniors.
“If we can go out with a bang, this coming weekend will be a lot of fun,” senior Ryan Winterbourne said. “It’ll be a good end to a tough couple of years.”