Pair of gymnasts enjoy perfection on the vault

by Ben Goessling

Courtney Norman and Carolyn Yernberg weren’t looking to make history last weekend.

It just turned out that way.

In successive vaults at last weekend’s UCLA Invitational, Norman and Yernberg scored the first perfect 10s in Minnesota women’s gymnastics history, leading the Gophers to a 49.6 on vault, the highest score in team history and the third-best vaulting score in the country this season.

The scores came as a surprise to the whole team, but were perhaps most shocking to Norman and Yernberg, neither of whom ever posted a perfect 10 at any level of competition.

“I still don’t know how to describe (getting a 10),” said Yernberg, a freshman from Blaine, Minn. “I’ve never had one, and our school’s never had one. It’s just amazing.”

Yernberg vaulted fifth in the Gophers’ lineup and was mobbed by her teammates immediately after her score was displayed.

For Norman, who vaulted immediately after Yernberg,
concentrating on her routine after the celebration was tougher than the vault.

“After I saw her (score), I was in shock,” Norman said. “I was so excited for her, and I was still yelling and screaming right up until my vault.”

When Norman, a senior from Minneapolis, received her score and gave Minnesota its second perfect 10 in less than two minutes, it created what co-coach Jim Stephenson called one of the best two moments in Gopher gymnastics history.

“There’s been a lot of anticipation about (scoring a 10), because it’s been so long in coming,” Stephenson said. “We were really starting to doubt whether it would ever happen.

“But when it did, it was as exciting as when we qualified for the NCAA championships in 1997. Those were just great moments.”

The moment was even sweeter for Norman and Yernberg because of the friendship the pair has forged this season.

“Carolyn and I have a little bit of the same personality,” Norman said. “We like to have fun. We come into the gym, and we’re always together. We go off each other’s energy, and when she does something well, it pushes me to do that much better.”

Neither Norman nor Yernberg is one of Minnesota’s most heralded gymnasts, often drawing less attention than senior MaryAnne Kelley or sophomore Annie Laatsch.

But the two have excelled on the vault this season, propelling the Gophers to the ninth spot in both the national overall and vault rankings.

Norman is ranked 17th in the nation in the event, leading the team with a 9.835 average. Yernberg is 37th nationally and second on the team with a 9.680 average.

Last weekend’s meet, which also featured defending national champion UCLA and four-time defending Big Ten champion Michigan, saw eight perfect 10s, including five on the vault.

But Stephenson said Minnesota’s two 10s signal to the gymnastics community the Gophers’ arrival among the nation’s elite.

“This really makes Minnesota a more obvious character on the map for gymnastics,” Stephenson said. “Our hope against UCLA and Michigan is to be able to hold our own, but the performance by Carolyn and Courtney shows we’re threatening them. Looking at the big picture, it’s a good thing for us.”

Ben Goessling welcomes comments at [email protected]