Rocky start to new gymnastics season for men, women

The women finished last in Nebraska, and the men claimed fifth in Chicago.

Lexi Pluym

Despite a top performance by senior Alexis Russell in three of four events, the Gophers womenâÄôs gymnastics team finished third during this weekendâÄôs tri-meet in Lincoln, Neb. Host Nebraska won the meet with a score of 195.20, while Illinios claimed second with a 193.375. Minnesota rounded out the pack with a 192.775. Russell and freshman Jasmine Brown led Minnesota on the vault, scoring 9.85 and 9.80, respectively. Sophomore Lucy Ennis tied her season high on the vault with a 9.775. âÄúVault has been one we are really working to improve on, and we have some really good vaulters on our team,âÄù Gophers head coach Meg Stephenson said. Minnesota struggled a bit on the balance beam, managing just 47.10 as a team. It was the only event Russell didnâÄôt have the highest score for the Gophers, as junior Kristin Furukawa scored a team-best 9.75. As Minnesota prepares for its first Big Ten dual meet of the season with Michigan State on Saturday, Stephenson said the lineup could see some changes on the beam. âÄúThe biggest thing is weâÄôre opening the lineup,âÄù she said. âÄúWeâÄôre going to generate enthuisiasm for the whole team.âÄù Minnesota compiled strong scores on the uneven bars totaling 48.850, but the scores on the beam and floor exercise (48.275) were too low for the Gophers to overcome. Though the Gophers finished last in the meet, Stephenson said sheâÄôs happy with the progress of her young team which only has one senior. âÄúI think weâÄôre moving in the right directionâÄù she said. Men struggle as well The menâÄôs gymnastics team began its season at the Windy City Invitational at Illinois-Chicago on Saturday night, finishing fifth in the six-team meet. Illinois won the title with a score of 353.750, followed by Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Minnesota and UIC. Seniors Aaron Fortunato and Colin McGuire led the Gophers with top-10 scores in multiple events. Fortunato finished seventh in floor exercise with a 14.800, and he was sixth on the horizontal bars with a 14.550. McGuire finished eighth on the horizontal bars with a score of 14.300 and 10th on vault with a 15.400. Gophers head coach Mike Burns said he thinks the experience of the two seniors has helped the teamâÄôs success. âÄúExperience is always something you rely on,âÄù he said. âÄúThey know how to handle the pressure well.âÄù McGuire also led the team on the floor, tying his 2009 season high with a 14.850, which was tied for fifth at the meet . As a team, Minnesota took third in the event. The Gophers didnâÄôt fare as well on the pommel horse and parallel bars, finishing last in both events. Burns said the team will definitely be spending time working on both events this week. Minnesota will host Arizona State and Washington at noon Saturday at the Sports Pavillion .