U takes 10th in first trip to NCAAs

by Susan Filkins

The Gophers women’s gymnastics team entered in to the NCAA championships last night in Gainesville, Fla., with one purpose in mind. They wanted to have fun and just enjoy the thrill and experience of being there.
Minnesota did not expect to place among the top six teams who qualified for tonight’s team finals. As it turned out, they indeed failed to do just that.
With a score of 194.800, the Gopher’s finish landed them in last place out of six teams in Thursday night’s session and 10th out of 12 teams overall.
The No. 11 Gophers knew they were a longshot to advance to team finals heading into the championship competition and the end results were not surprising.
Minnesota’s finish tied the highest finish for a women’s sport ever at the University.
Despite the fact the Gophers failed to qualify for the team finals, one member of the team will advance to the individual event finals on Saturday.
Junior Mindy Knaeble qualified for the event finals in her best event, the floor exercise. Her score of 9.850 was good for the fifth highest score of the overall team competition.
She is the first Minnesota gymnast to qualify for the individual event finals since Marie Roethlisberger, who won the national championships in the uneven bars in 1990.
Knaeble has been the Gophers most consistent performer in the floor exercise all season. Gophers coach Jim Stephenson said all year long if one of his gymnasts would have a shot at making it to the highest level in an event it would be Knaeble.
Up until Thursday night, the Gophers had been on the outside of the elite gymnastics programs in the nation. Their presence on the national stage last night will change this notion in the future.
Before leaving for the championships earlier this week, Stephenson said for his team to be considered one of the 12 best teams in the nation will do wonders for the women’s gymnastics program at Minnesota.
“The most obvious thing is that it will help us in recruiting,” Stephenson said last Thursday. “The second way it is going to help us is that the judges around the country are going to have a different level of respect for us, having ranked this high and qualified for this level of competition.”
Stephenson also said the Gopher’s reputation will improve vastly when they step on the floor next year. He said people will begin to look at Minnesota at a whole different level.
Georgia recorded the highest score of the opening day with a 197.075. They won the afternoon session and qualified for the team finals along with UCLA and Nebraska.
Arizona State won the evening competition with a score of 196.275. Also qualifying in the evening session was Michigan and Florida.
Men’s Gymnastics
The Gophers men’s gymnastics team was a little dejected after not qualifying as a team for the NCAA championships in Iowa City, Iowa. Three members of the team were present at the competition Thursday night after qualifying in individual events.
Junior George Beatty recorded the highest finish for the Gophers in the pommel horse where he took a share of 16th place with a score of 9.650. His teammate, sophomore Jason Krob, finished in a tie for 21st in the event recording a 9.625.
Senior Frank Ticknor was the other Gopher to compete in the individual competition. His score in the vault of 9.350 was only good for a share of 40th place.
The NCAA all-around champion was crowned to Ohio State senior Blaine Wilson. Wilson has dominated the rankings all season long as has his team.
The Buckeyes were heavy favorites to repeat their title, but they ended up finishing fourth. The top three qualifying teams who will compete in tonight’s team finals include top finisher California–Berkeley along with Oklahoma and Iowa.