Minnesota set to host NCAA championships

The University of Minnesota menâÄôs gymnastics team will be hoping home-gym advantage will translate into a championship when the Gophers begin hosting the NCAA championships Thursday at the Sports Pavilion. The top-12 teams in the nation will be competing in two separate sessions Thursday for a total of six spots in FridayâÄôs team finals. The Gophers enter tonightâÄôs second qualifying session ranked seventh. They will be competing against No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Illinois, No. 6 Ohio State, No. 10 Illinois-Chicago and No. 11 Iowa for one of three spots in FridayâÄôs team finals session. Minnesota coach Mike Burns said that securing one of those three spots is the teamâÄôs top priority. âÄúThat was our goal all year long, and thatâÄôs what weâÄôre going to be fighting for Thursday night, is to be one of those top three teams,âÄù Burns said. Ohio State will likely be the toughest competition for the Gophers for a spot to advance past tonightâÄôs qualifying session as the Sooners and Illini are very likely to take the top two spots. âÄúI think itâÄôs going to be a battle between us and Ohio State,âÄù Burns said. âÄúIf you ask them, theyâÄôd probably say the same thing.âÄù Minnesota has competed twice against the Buckeyes this season and split the matches, beating Ohio State the first time around. The Gophers placed third in JanuaryâÄôs Windy City Invitational in Chicago while the Buckeyes finished fourth. Ohio State got the better of Minnesota the second time around at the Big Ten championships, however. That time, it was the Buckeyes who finished third while the Gophers came in fourth, but the team is confident they could defeat Ohio State tonight and advance to FridayâÄôs championship session. âÄúI believe that we can beat Ohio State if we hit our sets,âÄù Minnesota junior Adam Reichow said. âÄúWe just have to focus on our landings and do championship routines. This isnâÄôt the regular season; we have to do routines that win championships rather than routines that win dual meets.âÄù Minnesota senior pommel horse specialist Kit Beikmann âÄî who was a finalist for the Nissen-Emery Award given to the nationâÄôs most outstanding senior male collegiate gymnast âÄî said he felt that being consistent with the pommel horse and high bar events would be key for the Gophers to beat the Buckeyes. âÄúTheyâÄôre the two most inconsistent events for any college team, and if we can stay on both of those, well, I donâÄôt think Ohio State will have a chance,âÄù Beikmann said. The Gophers are ranked No. 4 in the country in the pommel horse and topped Ohio State in both the pommel horse and high bar events at the Windy City Invitational when Minnesota beat the Buckeyes. Burns is hoping his team will put up a good score right away in the high bar event to build momentum from the beginning. âÄúWe start on the high bars, and if we can have a strong showing right out of the gate, I think thatâÄôs going to get us set up to do a good job the rest of the night,âÄù Burns said. The Gophers have a good opportunity to accomplish that score in the high bar. They have posted their two highest scores of the season in that event in two of their last three matches entering tonight. MinnesotaâÄôs session starts at 7 p.m. Thursday.