Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: Goodbye, LA

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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.

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Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: "Super Sunday"

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The 2013 NCAA Championships wrap up this afternoon with the Individual Event Finals at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, and the future of Minnesota women's gymnastics will be on center stage, as freshman Lindsay Mable competes on both vault and floor exercise and freshman Hanna Nordquist competes on balance beam.

The pair of gymnasts have already earned NACGC/W First Team All-America honors simply by advancing to today's finals. Today is an opportunity for icing on the cake, as they attempt to be among the top eight on their events and make the podium.

Mable is one of 24 qualifiers on vault, and she will be the sixth competitor on that event. She owns a season-high score of 9.950 on vault and scored a 9.900 on Friday to advance. Mable will be the 7th of 12 finalists to compete on floor, where she owns a season-high score of 9.975 and advanced to the final by tying for first in Semifinal #1 with a 9.900. Mable's 9.975 tied Minnesota's school record on floor exercise.

Nordquist will be the second of nine competitors on balance beam. She owns a season-best score of 9.925 on the event, and she advanced to the finals by scoring a 9.900 on beam during Friday's team semifinal.

To watch today's competition on ESPN3, click the following link: http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index/_/id/868466/ncaa-women-gymnastics-championships-presented-northwestern-mutual%20http://es.pn/NCAA-WGYM-0421

For Live Stats from today's competition, click the following link: http://www.uclabruins.com/livestats/w-gym/20130421.htm

Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: A Day at the Beach

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- With a day off between Friday's Team Semifinals and Sunday's Individual Event Finals, the Gophers took advantage of the beautiful California weather and spent a couple hours at Venice Beach on Saturday.

The team boarded the bus at 10:00 a.m., and arrived around 10:20. Sun and sand were the immediate focus, and the Gophers found a spot near the surf to enjoy a perfect day. Some of Minnesota's players and staff members were even able to see a small seal that was on a rock formation near their location.

The water was pretty cold to do more than just wade in it, so no one was brave enough to actually go for a swim. Some of the staff members and parents who joined the team there strolled along the boardwalk and checked out the vendors and performers who set up along the way.

One of the coolest experiences was to watch on two occasions as a cloud of fog worked its way across the water toward our location on the beach. It was interesting to see the fog quickly make its way toward us, and each time it blew past us within minutes. I'm sure a Californian wouldn't think twice about it. But, to Minnesotans, it was an interesting experience.

After sunbathing for awhile, many of the team members played some beach volleyball and threw a frisbee around before gathering for lunch at 1:00 p.m. The team then boarded the bus and headed back to the hotel to get ready for this afternoon's Super Six Team Finals, which they are watching as I write this in the Media Room at Pauley Pavilion.

It was a great day trip, as part of a truly fun weekend with an amazing group of young women.

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Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: On the Big Stage

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- Minnesota's goal all season long was to qualify as a team for the 2013 NCAA Championships. Two weeks ago today at the Gainesville Regional, that goal was achieved, as the Gophers finished second to Florida with a team score of 197.100.

Shortly after that meet had ended, the team's new rallying cry became "Super Six." The Golden Gophers had accomplished the amazing feat of becoming one of just 12 women's gymnastics teams to advance to Los Angeles, and now the goal was to advance beyond the semifinals.

On Friday at Pauley Pavilion, Minnesota competed in its semifinal on the big stage against five of the other top teams in the nation -- Florida, LSU, Georgia, Stanford and Illinois. The Gophers gave it everything they had, competing with tremendous heart and passion in front of an incredible group of fans that included Minnesota Director of Athletics Norwood Teague.

The support for the team was fantastic. Minnesota's Facebook page and Twitter account were getting flooded with positive comments from proud Gophers fans from all over the country.

At the end of the first semifinal, Minnesota stood in fourth place with a team total of 196.375 points. It wasn't enough for the Gophers to advance to Saturday's Super Six, but this team was able to experience first-hand what it takes to move on and the table is set for future teams to make return trips to the NCAA Championships.

Minnesota loses a pair of amazing leaders and talented gymnasts in Janell Campbell and Shannon Golich. They will be missed. Golich was a First Team All-Big Ten selection this season, and Campbell served as the team's captain and earned a spot on the Big Ten's All-Championships Team at last month's Big Ten Championships.

But the future of this program is bright. On Friday, a pair of freshmen -- Lindsay Mable and Hanna Nordquist -- advanced to Sunday's Individual Event Finals. By doing so, they both earned NACGC/W First Team All-America status -- Mable on both vault and floor, and Nordquist on beam.

Rest assured, the Gophers already have their team goals set for next season, and those goals include a trip to Birmingham, Ala., for the 2014 NCAA Championships.

Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: It's Almost Time!

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- Well, folks, this is what's it's all about. This is what the team has been working toward since it started workouts last summer. The time is here. The Gophers are mentally prepared and ready for the physical challenge of going head-to-head with the top collegiate women's gymnastics programs in the country.

Head coach Meg Staphenson's Golden Gophers are going through their practice rotations right now on the floor of Pauley Pavilion. We're a little more than an hour from the start of the 2013 NCAA Championships, and Minnesota will do its best to show fans from every school that it belongs on the big stage.

The Gophers have defeated Michigan when it was ranked No. 1 in the nation, they've gone head-to-head with current No. 1 Florida on two occasions, they've gone 14-4 this season against teams that are ranked among the Top 25.

Minnesota is about to write the next chapter in this magical season. It's been quite the ride, and I expect great things on the podiums at Pauley Pavilion this afternoon. Go Gophers!

Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: The BEST Fans Around!

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- Minnesota has tremendous support, wherever it goes, and most of the friends and family in the picture above have been to EVERY meet this season, home or away.

It means so much to the Golden Gophers to have such faithful followers, and we're sure this group will make itself heard today at Pauley Pavilion.

Minnesota was ranked in the Top 20 nationally for home attendance, drawing an average of just under 2,000 fans per meet. Today, Pauley Pavilion will serve as "Sports Pavilion West Coast," as all these great fans clad in Maroon and Gold will make their way into their seats to cheer the Gophers, as they attempt to advance to Saturday's "Super Six."

Thanks from the bottom of our hearts for all the wonderful support you've provided this season. It means the world to the gymnasts and all people associated with this great program.

Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: Meet Day!

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CULVER CITY, CALIF. -- It's NCAA Championships Meet Day!

The picture above is the view from my hotel room. There's nothing really special about that view, other than to let you see that it's a beautiful day here in the Los Angeles area, with LOTS of sunshine. Hoping that serves as an omen for how the Golden Gophers will fare today, as we are on the bus and headed to Pauley Pavilion for the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships!

For those of you who aren't able to be here, Minnesota is in the first semifinal today, and you can watch each session at the following links:

Early Session (2:00 p.m. CT)
http://www.ncaa.com/championship/liveplayer/player?gameId=291184&date=2013/04/19

Late Session (8:00 p.m. CT)
http://www.ncaa.com/championship/liveplayer/player?gameId=291185&date=2013/04/19

And here is the link for the NCAA Championships site, with Live Stats links: http://www.uclabruins.com/sports/w-gym/spec-rel/13-ncaa-gym.html

The thing with this team, though, is that IT has made the "sun" shine on it all season long by putting together amazing performance after amazing performance. Whether or not the Golden Gophers advance to Saturday's "Super Six" Team Finals, the 2013 season is one for the record books and this team will be remembered favorably for years to come.

But it's a sunny day in California, and Minnesota hopes to continue along the path that brought the team to this point. And being "Golden" Gophers has to count for something in this state.

Go Gophers!

Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: Big-Time Banquet

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- What a fantastic evening!

The University of Minnesota women's gymnastics team attended the NCAA Championships Banquet at Sony Pictures Studio on Thursday evening, and host UCLA put together an amazing experience for all the participants and staff members.

The Gophers gathered in the hotel lobby a little before 6:00 p.m. PT, where many of the Minnesota parents and fans who are here to cheer on the team spent some time wishing the team good luck. After taking some pictures, the team boarded the bus to head to Sony Studios.

Each team's bus was allowed to pull inside the gates of the Sony Picture Studios lot, where the teams were dropped off and able to walk through the middle of the numerous buildings where movies like Spider-Man, Men in Black, The Karate Kid and Ghostbusters have been filmed. Sony also served as the site of the television shows I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched, as well as the game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!

The Gophers were then received with a red carpet welcome, complete with photographers dressed as Paparazzi. The team stopped in front of an NCAA Championships backdrop for a team photo before continuing inside and finding its three tables inside a spacious lobby area.

The bonus from my perspective, as well as others in our group, was that we were allowed to immediately go line up to get food. Things were well-organized, with more than one area where food was available, so the lines were manageable and moved steadily.

The tables were decorated with square placards made to look like stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with each gymnast's name adorning one -- a very cool idea that each of the gymnasts appreciated.

A couple awards were presented, and Travis Wall of the show So You Think You Can Dance was there to add some Los Angeles star power to the evening. It was an incredible event, celebrating the best in collegiate women's gymnastics on the eve of the sport's national finals. Thanks to UCLA, the NCAA and its corporate partners, and Sony Pictures Studio for putting together such a special event.

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Gopher Women's Gym Travel Blog: Practice at Pauley

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- Minnesota woke up this morning, had breakfast at the hotel, and then boarded the team bus to depart for the team's practice session at UCLA's famed Pauley Pavilion.

Along the way, the Gophers got their first taste of California traffic, as vehicles moved slowly (but steadily) along Interstate 405 on the way to campus. It took a little maneuvering to get the team bus to the right spot, but Minnesota arrived in time for its 10:15 a.m. practice.

Other teams here this morning include Florida, LSU and Illinois. The teams are allowed 20 minutes on each event, as they familiarize themselves with the equipment and setup at Pauley Pavilion.

The Gophers will open the meet on uneven bars, as it did at the Gainesville Regional. That will allow Minnesota to finish on floor and vault, which have been the team's two strongest events this season.

The meet setup at Pauley Pavilion is fantastic, with all of the events on platforms that are elevated approximately three feet off the arena floor. The acoustics are good, the scoreboard is nice, and it seems to be a wonderful venue for the NCAA Championships.

After practice concludes at 12:01 p.m. PT, the team will head to lunch at Jerry's Famous Deli, then back to the hotel to rest for a few hours before tonight's NCAA Championships Banquet at Sony Pictures Studio.
Go Gophers! MNB1G
Go Gophers!
CULVER CITY, CALIF. -- We just returned to the hotel after a great meal at BJ's Brewhouse & Restaurant. The team walked the three or four blocks to dinner and enjoyed being able to sit in an open-air room with the garage doors open to let in a California breeze on a beautiful day here in Los Angeles.

I contemplated a pizza, which a couple others tried, but went with the Balsamic Glazed Chicken and don't regret the decision one bit. A big thumb's up to the staff at BJ's for a fantastic dinner!

It's nice to be able to walk to where we need to go, although the some members of the team might need to review the safety rules they learned about crossing the street in elementary school. Just sayin'.

After the walk back to the hotel, the team gathered to meet with the coaches to go over the agenda for tomorrow.

Highlights of Thursday's Schedule
10:15 a.m. to 12:01 p.m. -- Practice Session I at Pauley Pavilion
12:15 p.m. -- Lunch
6:30 p.m. -- NCAA Championships Banquet at Sony Pictures Studioit

It's hard to believe it's now less than two days until the Gophers will compete in Semifinal #1, but this team is so focused and driven to achieve its goals, and it's ready to lay it all on the line in an attempt to advance to Saturday's "Super Six."

Tomorrow will be an important day, as the Gophers will have a chance to familiarize themselves with the setup and equipment at Pauley Pavilion. Lights are out at 10:30 p.m. tonight, and I have a feeling the gymnasts will have no trouble getting some sleep after a long day of travel.