Gophers miss opportunity

Three Minnesota gymnasts slipped off the high bar, allowing Michigan to prevail.

Mark Heise

The biggest upset of the season for the Minnesota men’s gymnastics team just slipped through its fingers Saturday.

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Pacific coast classic
when: 7 p.m. Saturday
where: Oakland, Calif.

The Gophers came within half a point of defeating top-ranked Michigan at the Sports Pavilion, falling 209.8-209.3 – their first dual-meet loss this season.

Earlier in the week, Minnesota coach Mike Burns said the pommel horse would be crucial to his team’s success, and in the first rotation, the Gophers were able to turn their focus into points, recording a season-high score of 33.5 to outscore the Wolverines by a point and a half.

Sophomore Kit Beikmann and junior Steve Vuong put together huge performances on the horse, recording scores of 9.0 and 8.6, respectively, to lead Minnesota.

“Pommel horse was a big event for us tonight,” Beikmann said. “Coming into this, we were starting to fall off the pace and to be able to put up a score like this in this situation was huge.”

The seventh-ranked Gophers received help from two big floor routines by freshman Cole Storer (9.45) and sophomore Adam Reichow (9.3), and after two events, Minnesota held a slim lead, 69.9-69.75.

Michigan pulled out a big score on the rings, but the Gophers grabbed another season-high in that event to keep up with the Wolverines.

Minnesota stuck four dismounts and showed improvement in both its strength positions and its handstands, earning a score of 36.0 in the event.

With Reichow and freshman Andre Berry each contributing a score of 8.7 on the vault, the Gophers were able to pick up half a point on Michigan, recording a team score of 34.15.

The real swing in the scores came as Minnesota put together a solid set on the parallel bars. Senior Jacob Lee led the group with a 9.4 as the Gophers recorded a 35.65 to hold a 175.7-174.65 lead going into the final event.

“We were up a point and it was getting exciting, especially being so close to the win,” Vuong said. “We knew we still had to get through the last event, but the atmosphere was amazing.”

The atmosphere changed drastically on the high bar as three gymnasts slipped off the bar and were punished with a deduction in score for falling.

Storer made up some ground, scoring an 8.9 on the high bar, but the team score of 33.6 was too low, sending Minnesota to its first dual-meet loss of the year.

Burns, despite a disappointing end, expressed pleasure with his team’s ability to transfer its focus on pommel horse in practice to the meet, and also was happy with his team’s ability to hang with the top-ranked Wolverines.

“We’re coming away from this knowing that we can compete with the top team in the country,” he said. “Being this close and having it pulled out of their hands is tough, but we’ll be ready when we get another shot at the conference tournament.”

Women improve

Following a horrendous showing at home two weekends ago, the women’s gymnastics team took a step forward Friday despite its 195.225-193.65 loss to North Carolina.

Sophomore Carmelina Carabajal provided some excitement for the Gophers, tying for the win on floor exercise with a score of 9.825 and grabbing a career-high score of 9.8 on the balance beam.

Juniors Angela Walker and Amanda Miles also had strong beam routines, drawing praise from their coaches with scores of 9.825 and 9.775, respectively.

Freshman Alexis Russell recorded a career-high on floor with a 9.75 as Minnesota put together its best event of the night, scoring 48.75 points.

The team’s ability to have a solid performance on the floor was especially impressive, as a week ago it was by far its weakest area.

“We felt like the team did a much better job this weekend,” coach Meg Stephenson said. “We made several improvements from last week and based on what we saw, I think we’re on the right track.”