Minnesota eliminated from NCAAs

Mark Heise

It wasn’t what the team had hoped for, but an underachieving finish was what the Minnesota women’s gymnastics team ended its season with.

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ncaa championships
when: Apr. 26ñ28
where: Salt Lake City, Utah

One year removed from a Big Ten Championship, the Gophers struggled through their second consecutive meet Saturday at Denver, posting a score of 192.9 to finish fifth in the regional championship.

“This was a tough year for us,” coach Jim Stephenson said. “We knew there was potential with the group – the problem was we never quite reached it.”

Georgia and Denver finished first and second with scores of 197.275 and 195.825, respectively, advancing to the NCAA Championship.

Minnesota started off on the floor, typically its strongest event. But the Gophers failed to capitalize, allowing deductions to pile up leading to their lowest floor score at an away meet this season, 48.5.

Juniors Ashley Stanton and Angela Walker tied for the top score on the team, each scoring 9.725 on the event to place them in a tie for 17th overall.

Minnesota bounced back on vault, as freshman Alexis Russell led the way with a 9.825 (eighth overall) to send the Gophers to their second-highest vault score of the year, at 48.675. Senior Kelly Ganchan ended her career posting a 9.75, finishing second behind Russell.

The team faded in the final two events, earning its second-lowest score of the year on the uneven bars before counting two falls on the beam.

Walker led the team with a strong performance on the bars, tallying a 9.8 to tie for ninth place overall, but the team finished with just 47.85 points on the event.

The Gophers limped to the finish, as three of six gymnasts fell on the balance beam, sending Minnesota to a score of 47.875.

Walker was once again the top performer, finishing with a 9.8 to finish 11th overall. Stanton finished with a 9.75 for the Gophers.

“I think there was a lack of confidence this year, and as a beam team, I think we just need to put some work in over the summer and work to become more comfortable with the routines,” Stanton said.

“The talent is there, and with the added experience, there should be no reason why it won’t be one of our stronger events next year.”

Minnesota will look to regroup for next season. Suffering several key injuries limited the Gophers’ potential, but with the majority of the team coming back next year, Minnesota expects a turnaround.

“We know we had a rough year, but now we have to put that behind us and just look ahead,” Walker said. “We’ve got a lot to be excited about looking towards next year, and that’s where our focus is.”