Emotions starting to run high for seniors

The men will have their final home meet of the season on Saturday night.

by Alexandra Pluym

The end of the season is approaching sooner than anticipated for the Gophers menâÄôs and womenâÄôs gymnastics squads, especially for the seniors. The men will hold their last home meet of the season at 7 p.m. Saturday against Iowa and Illinois-Chicago, two squads they have previously seen this season at the Windy City Invitational meet held in Chicago . No. 7 Minnesota could not beat the now No. 10 Iowa but was able to come out on top of Illinois-Chicago, who is currently ranked 11th in the nation. Finally coming home for the first time in three meets, the men are excited. But for eight of them, it will be a little emotional. Seniors Andre Berry , Chase Etem , Aaron Fortunato , Michael Hillin , Colin McGuire , Thomas OâÄôBrien , Adam Reichow and Cole Storer will all compete at the Sports Pavilion for the final time. Gophers head coach Mike Burns said everybody is looking forward to being back home, especially for what could be a sentimental meet. âÄúWe have historically done better at home. I think theyâÄôre really hungry to get home,âÄù he said. After a little trouble last Saturday night, particularly on floor exercise, Fortunato said he expects to make some changes. âÄú[I want to focus on] floor, working on my dismount and continue to improve execution,âÄù Fortunato said. âÄúJust the little things.âÄù The team has been doing well on the road lately, but it still has yet to come out on top. The team will also look to improve in areas where it saw trouble last week at Penn State. Burns said the Gophers are looking to see more success on the pommel horse and the high bar. The squad finished with 54.850 points in both events last weekend , the teamâÄôs lowest scores of the meet. Minnesota had three competitors out of six fall on pommel horse. Overall, the Gophers finished second behind Penn State, scoring 348.250 points. Minnesota is looking forward to doing well in its last home meet, but the seniors will have something else on their minds. âÄúItâÄôs crazy how fast the time flies,âÄù said Fortunato. âÄúItâÄôs going to be bittersweet.âÄù Women in Arizona The No. 24 Gophers will head down to Tucson, Ariz., for a Friday night meet against No. 19 Arizona. The last time the two teams met was in 2009 at the Sports Pavilion, when Minnesota finished with 194.375 points topping the WildcatsâÄô 192.575. Gophers head coach Meg Stephenson said Arizona is a great team and a great place to compete, but sheâÄôs hoping Minnesota continues its recent road success. âÄúItâÄôs hard to say how theyâÄôre going to do. I know what we plan on doing,âÄù she said. âÄúOur away scores are really going to help us in the rankings right now.âÄù The Gophers want to improve on vault and look to start doing so when they get to Arizona. Other than that, Stephenson believes the team is in a good place now with the right mindset. âÄúI think our team is very cohesive,âÄù she said. âÄúI think the chemistry is good and the desire is good.âÄù After Arizona, the Gophers will return to the Sports Pavilion for their last home meet on March 20 against Iowa State. Senior Alexis Russell doesnâÄôt know how to feel about it, but she said she wonâÄôt be thinking about her last competition at home during the meet. âÄúI donâÄôt want to go out and bomb,âÄù she said. âÄúIâÄôm really trying to stay positive and take it one day at a time and let the meet happen, and then, at the end, IâÄôll let the tears come. All great things come to an end.âÄù