LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- After the Individual Event Finals on Sunday, the team waited outside Pauley Pavilion with friends and family until freshmen Hanna Nordquist and Lindsay Mable finished up with their post-meet responsibilities and emerged to a plethora of cheers, hugs and congratulatory wishes.
Hanna and Lindsay had just wrapped up three Top 5 finishes to cap a very successful weekend at the NCAA Championships for the Golden Gophers. Hanna just missed a national title on balance beam, as her score of 9.8875 tied for second place behind former Olympian Bridget Sloan of Florida, who won with a score of 9.900. Lindsay tied for fourth on floor exercise and tied for fifth on vault, receiving scores of 9.900 on both events.
When the Gophers boarded the bus to head to dinner, they posed for the photo above, in which each gymnast held the name plate that was used on the score displays during the NCAA Championships. They each got to keep their name plate as a memento from the weekend.
Minnesota then headed to Tony P's Dockside Grill in Marina del Rey for a celebratory dinner. As the restaurant name indicates, Tony P's is right on the water, and we knew the food would be fantastic when we pulled up and saw a full parking lot.
It was another wonderful meal -- very "schway," if you ask the team (it's an inside joke, and sorry if that's misspelled, Hanna and Janell). I had the crab cakes entree, which gets two thumbs up, but I'm pretty sure the team was more excited about the chance to order dessert!
This morning, everyone gathered in the lobby of the hotel at 6:30 a.m., and boarded the bus to head to LAX to catch an 8:15 a.m. flight back to the Twin Cities. We arrived in Minneapolis-St. Paul at 1:40 p.m., and the rain that was falling at the time has now turned to snow. *sigh*
All in all, it was a memorable weekend -- an eighth-place team finish at the NCAA Championships; Meg Stephenson being named NACGC/W National Coach of the Year; Jenny Hanson, Louie Johnson and Jim Stephenson honored as Assistant Coaches of the Year; two First Team All-Americans turning in Top 5 finishes in three events. And those are just the highlights from inside the gym.
The Gophers are so fortunate to have tremendous support from family, friends, and alumnae who travel great distances to watch them compete and clearly make it known who they're cheering for. It was difficult not to notice when the sizable group of Gopher fans broke into the Minnesota Rouser, whether at Pauley Pavilion or in the lobby of the team's hotel. The pride these people have for these extraordinary gymnasts is through the roof, and the team has a great appreciation for that fantastic support.
It's tough to write about this season coming to an end, because it's been so special. But, at the same time, it feels like this is just the beginning of an exciting era for Minnesota women's gymnastics. In an interview with Gymnastike after yesterday's Individual Event Finals, Hanna Nordquist and Lindsay Mable echoed each other's belief that Minnesota qualifying as a team for the NCAA Championships is something people should come to expect. And, with the type of team the Gophers have returning for the 2014 season, why not think that way?
Minnesota's 2013 season has been magical, and it's been so much fun to have the opportunity to write about this team's stellar performances along the way. Being able to travel with the team to Los Angeles was a blast, and so gratifying.
Now, the team's attention will shift to making sure it does well in the remainder of the academic year before it begins to prepare for next season. Birmingham, Ala., is the final destination. Don't doubt for a second that this team has what it takes to make it there. Minnesota and its fans will hope to make it their sweet home, Alabama.