Injury returns aid both gymnastics teams

The men beat Air Force by 7.7 points and the women lost to Penn State by .325 points.

Dusti Russel

Marisa Wojcik

Dusti Russel

Megan Ryan

The Gophers menâÄôs gymnastics team continued its successful results in Colorado Springs, Colo. this Saturday against the U.S. Air Force Academy.

No. 8 Minnesota scored 345.4 collective points to defeat host No. 10 Air ForceâÄôs 337.7.

âÄúOverall it was a much-improved performance from these guys,âÄù head coach Mike Burns said. âÄúI think it was one of those nights where they come away from it going, âÄòYeah, we are a good team.âÄô They knew it, but now theyâÄôve proved it.âÄù

The Gophers championed all of the events except still rings. They also produced their best scores of the year on pommel horse, still rings, high bar and parallel bars.

The team struggled with consistency at last weekendâÄôs meet against Illinois-Chicago but recovered for a more solid performance against Air Force.

âÄúOnce you get to the point where you can be confident in your performance, like tonight, the next step is to hit the routines with even fewer deductions,âÄù Burns said.

Junior Harris ColemanâÄôs return on floor exercise and pommel horse highlighted the meet for Minnesota. Coleman underwent two shoulder surgeries last year and finally competed again after eight months of recovery.

âÄúIt was a good feeling. IâÄôm glad I can finally compete after a year of not being able to. IâÄôm feeling great right now,âÄù Coleman said. âÄúIâÄôm not fully back yet. There are some spots that still hurt, but hopefully IâÄôll get there.âÄù

Minnesota champions were junior Josh Wokurka (14.7 on floor exercise), freshman Ellis Mannon (14.5 on pommel horse), sophomore Zack Chase (14.7 on vault), freshman Steve Jaciuk (14.4 tied with Wokurka on high bar) and senior Russell Dabritz (15.1 on parallel bars).

Most of the team will take next weekend off while Mannon and senior DJ Repp compete in the Winter Cup in Las Vegas, Nev.

Women

The Gophers womenâÄôs gymnastics team recorded a season-best score Saturday against Penn State at the Sports Pavilion.

Although No. 28 Minnesota fell to No. 9 Penn State by .325 points, its 195.15 team result marked real improvement as the Big Ten Championships approach.

âÄúItâÄôs nice to see who youâÄôre competing against. The Big Ten is really strong,âÄù head coach Meg Stephenson said. âÄúHonestly, we canâÄôt really affect what they do; we can only affect what we do. So we are just going to keep focusing on our performance and what we need to do to improve and continue to score better.âÄù

Perhaps the most promising prospect for Minnesota is that various injured veterans are beginning to return. Senior Lucy Ennis and junior Janell Campbell competed last weekend against Michigan and continue to recover from back and foot injuries, respectively. Both have only performed on uneven parallel bars. Campbell doesnâÄôt vault if the first five scores are good enough to count toward the team total, making her score unnecessary.

Junior Shannon Golich returned to the balance beam after a quadriceps injury forced her to withdraw from a Jan. 14 meet against Illinois.

âÄúIâÄôve been working really hard in the gym so it felt great to finally get out there again and do what I know how to do,âÄù Golich said. âÄúI love to compete, so it was a great feeling to me and a great feeling to the team as well.âÄù

The last injured gymnast waiting to compete again is sophomore Justine Cherwink, who tore both ACLs last year and is expected to make an appearance in the next three to four weeks, according to Stephenson.

Campbell and Ennis tied for first on uneven parallel bars with a 9.8 score. Golich placed third on balance beam with 9.825 points. Sophomore Kayla Slechta finished second on vault with a 9.825. Freshman Kylie Schermann and sophomore Dusti Russell tied for second place on floor exercise with a 9.8.

Next weekend the women travel to Norman, Okla., to face Oklahoma, Nebraska and Centenary.