U works to regain championship form

David La

As Minnesota’s No. 10 women’s gymnastics team began their current four-meet road stretch, they walked with a strut that comes with being the defending Big Ten champions.
That strut has been reduced to a stroll as losses and injuries have combined to mar the squad’s performance.
“When we went to West Virginia, we had a little bit of problem on balance beam, which was hard to recover from,” Coach Meg Stephenson said.
The Gophers finished third at the Feb. 20 meet, behind the No. 12 Mountaineers and North Carolina State. The Gophers yielded a season-low team score on the beam.
Traveling to No. 25 Illinois on March 2, Minnesota re-emerged to tally season-high team scores in the vault, uneven bars and floor exercise. The team total of 194.900 was a season-best as well.
Thumbs-up quickly turned into crossed fingers for Minnesota at the Illinois meet, however, as star junior Judy Cavazos got injured.
“Judy sprained her ankle a little bit at Illinois,” Stephenson said. “She worked out today and looked really good, but I think we probably will pull her off vaulting at Iowa (on March 5).”
That meet, coupled with a visit to No. 17 Iowa State on March 7, will keep the burdens of the road squarely on the Gophers’ shoulders.
“This is really the hardest part of the year because (the gymnasts) are starting to get a little bit tired, and it’s the end of the quarter so there is more pressure from school,” Stephenson said. “We’re pleased to see our team work through all of these outside stresses.”
Minnesota boasts six freshman on its roster, which means the first-year performers are thrust to the forefront. Stephenson has been particularly appeased by freshman Megan Beuckens.
Beuckens leads off the beam, giving her a chance to set the tone for her teammates. Against Iowa State on Feb. 6, she took third place on the beam and floor exercise.
“It’s hard because I feel that being the first person up, you want to show the judges a good, solid routine,” Beuckens said.
The Gophers are looking for two such performances this weekend from Beuckens and her teammates, in an effort to reclaim their championship form.