Gophers struggle despite lesser competition

Mark Heise

Falling must be contagious.

Whether it was the weak competition or the different format of the meet, the Minnesota women’s gymnastics team lacked the concentration needed to perform up to par Saturday at the Best of Minnesota Meet.

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when: 6 p.m. Friday
where: Chapel Hill, N.C.

“There were a few distractions at the meet tonight,” freshman Alexis Russell said. “But we knew coming in that it would be like this and we’re taught to not let things get to us.

“The falls were a little unnerving, but I don’t want to say that was what caused the breakdown.”

The Gophers followed in the footsteps of their competition, falling as often if not more often than the Division III schools at the meet.

The floor exercise was nothing less than a disaster for Minnesota, as three gymnasts fell on one of their passes; one gymnast landed outside of the boundaries, resulting in a deduction; and one more nearly went down on a pass.

Junior Ashley Stanton was the sole bright spot on the floor, recording a 9.625 in her routine, a high score for the meet.

One of the Gophers’ best events over the past few weeks turned into one of their worst as injuries cut the lineup to the bone on the uneven bars.

To make matters worse, one of Minnesota’s top performers on bars had an unexpected fall, forcing the Gophers to drop what usually would be a high score.

Russell salvaged the event for the Gophers, sticking a blind full double back flip in the tuck position off the bars to post a meet-high 9.725.

Minnesota’s vault, usually the Gophers’ weakest event, was surprisingly strong. Sophomore Jade Beattie nailed her handspring front flip with a half twist, recording 9.75 to lead Minnesota to a score of 48.525 for the event.

Although the vault was the Gophers’ strongest event of the meet, the balance beam provided something positive for the team to take away from the train wreck of a night.

Minnesota’s first two gymnasts fell off the beam, putting extra pressure on the final four gymnasts.

But the Gophers stepped up as sophomore Carmelina Carabajal and juniors Amanda Miles, Angela Walker and Ashley Stanton all nailed their routines. Stanton recorded a meet-high 9.825.

“The idea is to focus on what you have to do individually and ignore what just happened, and I think we did a good job of performing under pressure in that situation,” Stanton said. “We put ourselves in tough situations in practice to prepare for nights like tonight.”

The Gophers finished the night with their second-lowest score of the season, 191.625, topping second-place Hamline University, who finished with 179.225. Winona State finished third with 175.5 points, while Gustavus Adolphus brought up the rear with 171.375 points.

Despite the lopsided win, Minnesota was obviously upset with its performance.

“The coaches feel that we were not as focused for the duration of the event as we should be,” coach Jim Stephenson said. “And that just can’t happen in a sport where there is such a small margin for error. It was very disappointing.”