Mannon wins NCAA title

Minnesota didn’t qualify for the team portion of the NCAA meet.

Minnesota gymnast Ellis Mannon competes on the pommel horse Friday, April 5, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

Bridget Bennett

Minnesota gymnast Ellis Mannon competes on the pommel horse Friday, April 5, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

David Nelson

Ellis Mannon left little doubt as he dismounted the pommel horse Saturday night.

His 15.425 score illuminated the scoreboard inside the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the junior gymnast knew he’d sealed the NCAA title.

“It was a pretty great feeling,” Mannon said. “That’s what I trained for this whole year, my whole career, so to finally get there is pretty rewarding.”

Mannon went last on the apparatus out of a group of 10 gymnasts. After many struggled, Gophers head coach Mike Burns said Mannon was fortunate to be the last to go.

“There’s a lot of waiting around, so it’s a little bit nerve-racking,” Burns said. “But at the same time, you kind of know what you need to do to win.”

Mannon is the first NCAA champion Burns has coached during his decade-long tenure at Minnesota.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Ellis’ efforts,” Burns said. “I think the whole staff … has been a big part of his development as well. It was a real team effort.”

Burns referred to Mannon as the team’s “go-to guy” after the junior’s performance in the final home meet of the season.

Mannon certainly lived up to those expectations on college gymnastics’ biggest stage.

“I wouldn’t say he’s got ice water through his veins, but tonight it sure looked like he had ice water going through his veins,” Burns said.

Minnesota also sent junior Steve Jaciuk, senior Matt Frey and senior Zach Chase to Saturday night’s individual competition. All three placed ninth.

“I hit my best routine that I’ve ever hit before,” Jaciuk said of his performance on high bar Saturday night. “But the fact I didn’t stick [the landing] really hurt me. I think overall I’ve got to be pretty happy with my performance.”

Those on a non-qualifying team needed to place third or higher in Thursday night’s qualifier and then place 10th or higher on their event
Friday night.

Even after two straight nights of gymnastics, Burns said he didn’t think fatigue played a role in Saturday night’s outcome.

“They actually looked very good,” Burns said. “I don’t think fatigue [was] an issue at all.”

Minnesota started its NCAA meet with the team qualifier Thursday night.

A third-place finish would have catapulted the team into Friday night’s final, but the Gophers finished fourth, ending their run.

“It was obviously a disappointment because we felt we were capable [of advancing],” Burns said. “Still, I think one thing that was really incredible was how much these guys stuck to it. … They didn’t give up.”

Minnesota wrapped up a fairly successful season Saturday night, while bidding adieu to eight seniors who provided the team’s foundation all season.

“We’re going to be missing eight brothers,” Jaciuk said. “They were my influences — guys that I looked up to.”