Minnesota men’s gymnastics gets top-5 spot at NCAAs

The team had four All-American honorees in five events following the weekend meet.

Tristan Duran competes on the high bar during the Gophers' meet against the Air Force on Jan. 21, 2017. The Gophers beat the Air Force 407.700 to 395.350.

Maddy Fox

Tristan Duran competes on the high bar during the Gophers’ meet against the Air Force on Jan. 21, 2017. The Gophers beat the Air Force 407.700 to 395.350.

Jack White

Gophers men’s gymnastics earned its highest finish in 15 years on Saturday.

Minnesota took home fifth place in the first round of the NCAA championships Friday, its first top-five finish since 2002. With the finish, the Gophers advanced to the finals round for the second straight year.

“We had some setbacks during the competition, but we were able to persevere,” head coach Mike Burns said.

The Gophers had four gymnasts earn All-American honors in five events. Three of the four All-American gymnasts earned the honor for the first time.

Junior Tristan Duran earned All-American for the parallel bars and high bar. It’s the first All-American season for Duran, and he came away with two honors.

Junior Jalon Stephens also claimed All-American honors on high bar, which is the first time he has earned All-American. Stephens scored a 14.500 on high bars to tie for third.

Sophomore Vitali Kan was the third Minnesota gymnast to finish as an All-American for the first time. Kan tallied a 14.750 on the vault to finish in eighth place.

Senior Zach Liebler claimed All-American on the floor exercise for the third consecutive year, tying for sixth with a 14.400.

Liebler finished his collegiate career as a four-time All-American. Liebler said he will miss the community of college of gymnastics the most.

“You go to the meets, you look forward to seeing your friends on other teams,” he said.

The Gophers capped off the season with a 414.200 in all events. Oklahoma claimed its third consecutive national championship at the meet.

The Gophers’ best event of the night was the vault, where Minnesota scored a 71.900.

Kan was the highest finisher on vault with a 14.750. Pochinka fell just short of All-American honors with a ninth-place finish and a 14.700.

Minnesota returns all but two gymnasts for next season, including three gymnasts who earned All-American accolades this season.

“We’re not losing too many routines,” Duran said. “We have a good chunk of our team here and still ready to do some gymnastics.”