Bars present challenge amid success

Minnesota has struggled on the uneven bars this season.

Minnesotas Cierra Tomson performs on the floor exercise Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion. Tomson scored a 9.85 in the event.

Image by Bridget Bennett

Minnesota’s Cierra Tomson performs on the floor exercise Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion. Tomson scored a 9.85 in the event.

by Nickalas Tabbert

The Gophers women’s gymnastics team has solidified itself among the top dozen programs in the country this season.

But what separates the elite teams from the good teams is the ability to consistently post high scores on every event.

So far, Minnesota has been consistent with its team score, but it hasn’t scored high on every event.

The uneven bars apparatus has been the biggest struggle for the No. 11 Gophers.

The team has averaged 48.71 points through five weeks, which ranks seventh out of eight teams in the Big Ten Conference.

In three of the team’s five meets, its lowest score has been on bars. As a result, bars is the only event for which the team does not have a national ranking.

Last week against Illinois, however, the Gophers seemed to figure things out, scoring 49.275 points on bars, its highest of the season.

Five of the six Gophers gymnasts to compete on the apparatus scored higher than they did the previous week. Sophomore Cierra Tomson and senior Janell Campbell tied for first on the event and set season highs.

Freshman Lindsay Mable improved her score by four-tenths of a point.

The Gophers have relied on younger talent on bars this season. Minnesota has used two freshmen and two sophomores in every meet except one — junior Justine Cherwink replaced sophomore Jenny Covers at Michigan State when Covers was scratched from the competition with a slight concussion.

Those four underclassmen represent four of the Gophers’ top-six scorers on bars this season. Junior Kayla Slechta has the highest average score.

Campbell said being young isn’t necessarily bad since it provides opportunities for new, fresh routines.

It also gives them a lot of experience for their junior and senior years, she said.

Covers said the young team has “overcome hiccups” but was able to pull everything together against Illinois.

“Everyone has figured out what they need to do to be successful in their routines,” she said.

While bars hasn’t been the team’s strength this season, Covers said the gymnasts will continue to focus on hitting routines, knowing the scores will rise.

Tomson, who scored a career-high on bars against Illinois, said it was comforting to have her success in practice translate to a meet. But she left room for improvement.

“When I got off the bars, [it] still wasn’t my best routine I had ever done,” she said. “So that’s exciting for me to know that I have stuff I can still work on.”

Russell may return this weekend

Gophers coach Meg Stephenson said junior Dusti Russell may see exhibition action on bars and balance beam this weekend. Russell, an all-around competitor in the NCAA championships last season, has not been in the lineup so far this season.