Women’s gymnasts top No. 6 Alabama

Michael Dougherty

Last week co-head coach Jim Stephenson called his 13th-ranked women’s gymnastics team, “The best-kept secret in Minnesota.”
Well, the secret is out.
Stephenson’s squad defeated sixth-ranked Alabama 192.925 to 192.300 in front of a Sports Pavilion-record crowd of 3,422.
The meet, which was held Saturday night, was the season-opener for both teams.
In beating Alabama, the Gophers exacted a bit of revenge. The Crimson Tide beat out Minnesota in last year’s NCAA Championships for seventh place.
The loss also marked the first time Alabama has lost a season-opener since 1979.
The Gophers were led by sophomore Judy Cavazos, who won the floor exercise with the top score of the evening, 9.875.
Senior All-American Mindy Knaeble took second in the floor exercise by scoring a 9.85. Knaeble, from Totino-Grace high school, is also the reigning Big Ten Champion.
Completing a clean sweep in the floor exercise was senior Kim Sveum, who tied her personal best score in the event with a 9.825.
Also setting a personal best was sophomore Melissa Chang, who took second place on the uneven bars with a score of 9.725. Cavazos won the uneven bars with a score of 9.825.
As would be expected, Stephenson was pleased with his team’s performance.
“This team looks as good as they did at mid-season last year,” the co-head coach said. “They are so comfortable with what they’re doing, and that level of confidence was visible tonight.”
Stephenson, who shares the head coaching responsibility with his wife Meg, continued his praise by saying, “We are very pleased. Beating a team like Alabama will make people look at us as a legitimate force.”
Earlier in the day, the men’s gymnastics team began its season with its annual pre-season warm-up against the alumni team.
The alumni team is made up of many former and current national team members. They defeated the Gophers 221.85 to 213.90.
Leading the alumni team to victory was two-time Olympian John Roethlisberger, son of head coach Fred Roethlisberger.
Senior co-captain George Beatty, from Aberdeen, N.J., won the floor exercise and finished second on the pommel horse and the vault. Beatty also took third place on the high bar.
The Gophers were led in all-around scoring by sophomore Ryan Winterbourne. Winterbourne, from Anaheim, Calif., finished with an overall score of 52.20. He also took second place in the floor exercise.
The regular season begins on Saturday for the Gophers, as the team travels to Chicago for the Windy City Invitational.