Beam trips up Gophers again at NCAA meet

Jim Schortemeyer

With just one event left in the NCAA regional meet on Saturday, the Minnesota women’s gymnastics team was in a dogfight to make the NCAA championships.
The Gophers were strong in their first three events, even posting the highest score on the floor exercise. But the balance beam, a season-long sore spot, stood in Minnesota’s path to the NCAA championship meet.
The Gophers were tied with West Virginia for the second and final spot in the NCAA championships heading into the final event.
“I felt the pressure; I knew we were tied with Minnesota coming into the final round,” West Virginia coach Linda Burdette said. “I turned to one of my assistant coaches and said, ‘I’m glad we’re on vault, because the beam is a tough event to finish on.'”
The beam was as difficult as Burdette hoped — Minnesota fell twice on the beam and finished fourth with a score of 194.750. West Virginia took second with 195.475 and Utah won with 196.325.
“It was as close a regional, in terms of the top four, I’ve ever been involved in,” Utah coach Greg Marsden said. Denver finished third, .025 behind West Virginia.
In the end, Minnesota’s half point didn’t cost the Gophers the championship. It would have taken an unprecedented score of 48.725 for Minnesota to tie West Virginia. The Gophers haven’t scored over a 48.5 on the beam this year.
The beam has been Minnesota’s most difficult event all year. The Gophers scored lower on the beam than any other event in every meet this year.
So you could say co-head coach Jim Stephenson was a little concerned heading into the final round.
“I was trying not to pass out from the pressure,” Stephenson joked. “I removed myself from that event more than any other. Once they mount the apparatus, they’re out of your control.”
Sophomore Megan Beuckens admitted the pressure of the situation was unnerving, but she felt the team did the best it could.
“We were all trying to stick together,” Beuckens said. “We were even more nervous because of the situation, but they did the best they could, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Beuckens was a bright spot for Minnesota’s weekend. She tied for first on the floor exercise and tied for fourth in the all-around competition. Beuckens’ effort may earn her an individual spot in the NCAA meet.
With judges grading more harshly due to the competitive nature of the meet, everybody’s score was down. The Gophers’ score was a full point lower than usual.
Minnesota would have had to perform flawlessly, or very close to it, to advance to the NCAA championships. When the Gophers couldn’t manage that, they were passed by.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t advance, but this event left no margin for error,” Stephenson said. “The teams are so good, if someone trips, they get run over.”

Jim Schortemeyer is the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected]