Jan. 19, 2014
By: Ben Gotz, Athletic Communications Student Assistant
MINNEAPOLIS - Junior Ellis Mannon led the way for the Gophers with the all-around title as the No. 9 Minnesota men's gymnastics team officially got its season underway Saturday night, finishing fourth at the Windy City Invitational.
The annual meet features many of the Big Ten Conference schools the Gophers will compete against throughout the season. The six-team meet featured Michigan, Illinois, Ohio State, Iowa and the University of Illinois- Chicago, along with the Gophers.
The Gophers finished fourth with a score of 424.800. Michigan claimed the team title with a score of 437.500, followed by Ohio State and Illinois tying for second (436.050). Behind the Gophers were Iowa (417.700) and UIC (395.500).
The Gophers' score of 424.800 was up slightly from the 422.000 points they scored last week in their dress rehearsal for the season, the Alumni Meet. Even though the Gophers beat their scores from last week in five of the six events, head coach Mike Burns still didn't think it was his squad's best effort.
"We went down in our hit percentage, which was a little disappointing," Burns said. "We had some better performances, but we also had a fair number of mistakes."
Some of the strong performances Burns alluded to were those by senior Matt Frey, who scored a 15.1 in vault, and juniors Sean Bauer and Steve Jaciuk, who both scored in multiple events for the Gophers.
"That's one of the best vaults I've seen him do in his whole career," Burns said of Frey's effort.
Senior Steffen Beck also had a very nice night on the pommel horse, as his score of 14.65 was good for fifth place.
"Steffen is definitely a strong pommel horse guy," Burns said.
However, no individual performance came close to the show put on by junior Ellis Mannon. Mannon took first place in the all-around with a score of 87.05. En route to his all-around title, he did not record a score below 14.0 the entire night, and was exceptional on the pommel horse, with a score of 15.95.
Mannon's performance on the pommel horse was the second-highest score the entire meet, only exceeded by the 16.25 posted by gymnast Michael Newburger from Ohio State, also in the pommel horse.
"Ellis just had an awesome meet," Burns said. "He was very consistent."
The Windy City Invitational gave the Gophers an opportunity to get a first-hand look at what some of the best teams the Big Ten had to offer, most of which are nationally ranked, like the Gophers.
"We've got our work cut out for us," Burns said. "We have to eliminate some of these mistakes and get ourselves up to the level those guys are at right now."
The Gophers will look to keep improving as they come home this week to host a meet against top-ranked Oklahoma and UIC on Saturday, Jan. 25. The action begins at 1 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion.
"Basically, we just have to clean up our little mistakes," Burns said. "Reduce our errors, and hopefully eliminate them by the end of the season."
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