Gophers head to Auburn regional

Junior Lindsay Mable during her performance on the balance beam on Feb. 28 at the Sports Pavillon.

Image by Daily File Photo, Liam James Doyle

Junior Lindsay Mable during her performance on the balance beam on Feb. 28 at the Sports Pavillon.

by Brad Bobel

While the weather in Minnesota stays cold, the Gophers will head south for a chance to qualify for nationals.

The NCAA announced Monday that No. 17 Minnesota will compete in the Auburn Regional against five other teams on April 4.

No. 8 Auburn, No. 5 Alabama, George Washington and fellow Big Ten teams Iowa and Maryland join the Gophers in the region.

The Gophers have competed against Maryland and Iowa this season, losing to both teams.

“We had some ups and downs this season, and we’ve learned a lot from those meets,” junior Lindsay Mable said. “Meeting them again is nothing to faze us. We look at it like ‘us against us.’”

The Gophers will also have to face the SEC champion in Alabama and the host Auburn in a tough region.

“We knew the No. 1 seed [Alabama] would be great, as it always is, but it will be fun competing against assistant coach Geralen Stack-Eaton’s alma mater,” interim head coach Jenny Hansen said.

Last year, the Gophers didn’t advance to the championships, finishing third in their regional behind Illinois and the eventual national champion Oklahoma.

“This team is much younger [than last year’s], but there is more leadership,” Hansen said. “Our juniors and seniors have had to show [the younger gymnasts] the way.”

With such a young team, Minnesota will need the athletes with NCAA championship experience to lead them in regionals.

“It’s huge to have them. They know what to expect and what it takes,” Hansen said.

Last year, then-sophomores Mable and Hanna Nordquist qualified for the NCAA individual event finals with their performances on the vault and beam, respectively.

Mable finished in fifth nationally with a score of 9.9333 on vault, and Nordquist came in 16th with a score of 9.3 on balance beam

“Success and downfalls [are] good motivation. This year’s downfalls have really motivated me and the team to put our goals in front of us,” Mable said.