Women’s gymnasts stay on roll against Iowa

Michael Dougherty

The 11th-ranked Gophers women’s gymnastics team continued its hot streak Saturday night by topping Iowa 194.125-191.175 at the Sports Pavilion.
The Gophers were leading Iowa by only .70 points heading into the last rotation, but turned in their best floor exercise routine of the season to put the meet away.
Co-head coach Jim Stephenson credited the tough mentality of his squad for its performance on the floor.
“We were very pleased with how confident our team entered the floor exercise and just took command of the meet,” Stephenson said. “The team is starting to have a sense of command without really having to get themselves into some unusual mental state.”
Sophomore Judith Cavazos and senior Mindy Knaeble split the title on the floor by each scoring a 9.875, and the team went on to record a 49.150 on the floor, the seventh-best score in team history.
Cavazos’ performance on the floor exercise benefitted from a solid title-winning routine on the uneven bars. She scored a 9.850, halting a two-meet streak in which she has had a fall in that event.
Stephenson said he knew Cavazos wasn’t pleased with her performance on the bars as of late and that she has really focused on trying to return to form on an event she usually dominates.
“You are going to find with the gymnasts that when they’re having difficulty with an element or certain routine, they can’t get it out of their heads, and that makes it even worse,” Stephenson said.
Cavazos agreed.
“It helps build my confidence,” she said. “I felt better that I hit my routine, and then I wanted to hit the whole night.”
Senior Kim Sveum won the title on the vault by scoring a 9.775. She also took second on the floor exercise with a personal-best 9.850. Like Stephenson, Sveum said the team really picked it up on the floor.
“Our first person up, Cami (Phillipi), did an excellent job on her routine and it just kind of carried over,” she said. “Every routine just seemed to get a little better and a little better. It was a good night.”
But perhaps what made Jim Stephenson and his coaching partner and wife Meg the happiest was the performance turned in on the balance beam by Lacey Purkat.
Purkat had been struggling in recent meets with her routine, so Meg Stephenson removed her from the lineup against Iowa in hopes of getting Purkat more focused.
Purkat, performing her routine in exhibition only, responded by turning in a score of 9.775, which would have won the title.
“She needed to build that confidence herself,” Meg Stephenson said. “So it was good to take the pressure off for a week and show her she can do it.”
Jim Stephenson said he thinks the team is coming together after topping the 194 mark in three of the last four meets.
“As an athletic force and as a team we feel like we’re really starting to gel, and we feel a lot of internal power,” he said.