Gymnastics teams eye success and top-tier finishes

Jill Shirley

Minnesota’s women’s gymnastics team travels to Penn State to compete in the 2000 Big Ten championships on Saturday.
The Gophers are up against Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois and Iowa. They are 2-1 against Big Ten opponents in the regular season, falling to top-ranked Michigan 195.175-193.550 in January.
They faced Iowa twice in February, winning by two points both times.
Minnesota is ranked 17th nationally and third in the Big Ten with a regional qualifying score of 194.810. Of the four events — floor exercise, vault, balance beam and uneven bars — Minnesota is ranked in three of them.
The Gophers are listed ninth on floor with a score of 49.075, 14th on bars with a 48.915 and 15th on vault with a 48.695.
Sophomore Megan Beuckens is the only Gopher ranked in the national top-25 lists. She is tied for 18th on floor with a score of 9.885.
The Gophers have won four Big Ten titles in their history and have placed either first or second in eight of 18 conference championships.
But the coaches aren’t exactly thinking about winning the team title.
“Michigan is the top-ranked team in the country,” co-coach Jim Stephenson said. “The ability to beat them is wishful thinking.”
Stephenson went on to say that while a title would of course be great, a second-place finish is more realistic.
Michigan proves to be their toughest opponent. With eight conference titles in their trophy case, the Wolverines have won the most titles in conference history. In addition to being ranked No. 1 overall, they are ranked first on vault and balance beam, second on floor exercise and third on uneven bars and have four scores of at least 197 all season.

Men’s gymnastics
The men’s team will be competing at the Big Ten championships at Michigan State.
The Gophers are led by Clay Strother, a freshman who’s earned all-Big Ten honors this year. As a team, Minnesota is hot. The Gophers beat Nebraska last weekend with a season-high score of 227.275 — nearly three points better than the Cornhuskers.
Unlike the women’s meet, individual and team titles are not decided on the same day. Minnesota competes tonight in team competition, and tomorrow to earn individual titles.