Newfound beam equilibrium leads to narrow win

by Robert Mews

The feeling of being undefeated will continue for another week for Minnesota’s women’s gymnastics squad.

The 20th-ranked Gophers upset No. 9 Penn State on Saturday at the Sports Pavilion by the slimmest of margins, 194.175 points to 193.500.

The victory would have been impossible were it not for a strong Gophers effort on the balance beam during the third of four events.

Minnesota had trouble on beam in the previous two meets this season, and the same looked evident when freshman Carmelina Carabajal fell off during her routine.

The Gophers rebounded.

“After that, there’s no margin for error,” co-coach Jim Stephenson said. “To see our team do as well as they did after Carmelina was a great example for us on how tough they really are.”

Minnesota was able to come back in large part because of senior Laura Johnson. She finished first overall on the beam with a score of 9.825 ” a season high ” and helped the Gophers wrap up the victory on the beam heading into the last event of the night.

“I’ve been struggling on beam the past few events, and so I’ve really determined to do my best on it this meet, and I did,” Johnson said. “And, it was just a great meet for me.”

Johnson won three of the four events. She began the night on the vault, where she scored a season high with an overall score of 9.850. She then went on to the uneven bars and won the event with a score of 9.775. Her final event, the floor exercise would have been second highest if it was not for a 0.10 deduction for going out of the boundary line during a tumble.

“This is amazing,” Johnson said. “We’re undefeated, as of right now.”

Men take stride

Minnesota’s men’s gymnastic team also prevailed on Saturday at the Sports Pavilion.

The ninth-ranked Gophers beat No. 11 Illinois-Chicago, 201.200-196.250.

Minnesota was led by junior Steven Vuong. Vuong finished in the top three for the Gophers in five events ” pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars and high bars.

His most impressive event might have been the pommel, where he had the second highest score, an 8.800.

“I was actually pretty pleased with pommel heads,” Vuong said. “I stayed on, and it was pretty clean.”

Despite the strong performance of Vuong and a victory, coach Mike Burns said he was not pleased with how the team faltered on the final two events.

“During the meet, I just think we got, toward the end, a little tired,” Burns said.

The final event, the high bar, was Minnesota’s worst event. Only one gymnast, all-around performer Jacob Lee, was able to score higher than an 8.000. Two scored below a 7.000.

Yet the Flames were no better on the high bar. Minnesota finished the event scoring 31.950 to Illinois-Chicago’s 30.400.

“A win is a win,” Burns said. “Any time you can come out with a W, you got to be happy.”