The Minnesota men’s gymnastics team beat Nebraska and UIC on a snowy Saturday night at the Sports Pavilion. The Gophers scored a season-high 431.200, while the Cornhuskers finished second with a 419.750. UIC completed the competition with a 392.100.
The win was exciting, but it was the continued improvement that impressed Gopher coach Mike Burns the most.
“I am just amazed with each week,” said Burns. “They improve more than I anticipate. It is just a testament to what they want right now. I would have to look real hard to see things that did not please me. You can see they are a hungry team and they are out there gobbling things up right now.
Four Gophers – Adam Kern, Zach Chase, Adam LaFleur, and Steve Jaciuk – feasted on scores above 15.000. Jaciuk led the way with a career-high mark of 15.300 on the high bar, while Kern posted a 15.100 on the floor exercise and a 15.150 on the still rings.
Minnesota won every team event and placed first in five of the six events individually. The lone exception was the floor exercise, where Kern (15.100) finished just behind Nebraska’s Grant Perdue (15.150).
The Gophers lowest team performance of the night was on the pommel horse, as they scored a 66.800. However, Ellis Mannon continued his mastery of the event, running away with first place with a 14.500 (teammate Harris Coleman was tied for second with a 13.600).
Despite the 66.800 on the event, Burns said he liked what he saw on the pommel horse.
“We need to break 70 and we have not done that yet, but what I saw tonight on horse I really liked,” he said. “I cannot get too caught up in the scores because the performance was the key thing. I thought we looked better than what our score indicated. We are still not there, but I feel really good about where we are going with pommel horse.”
Minnesota was the lone team not to have a gymnast in the all-around competition, as Nebraska had one and UIC had three. The Gophers have not had one gymnast carry them this year. Instead it has been a team effort that has seen them improve on the scoreboard in all three meets this year. Minnesota scored 427.750 two weeks ago at the Windy City Invitational and then totaled 430.600 a week ago against Air Force before surging to a 431.200 on Saturday.
“The team chemistry is really starting to come together,” said Burns.
That chemistry will be tested next week. The Gophers will be without Ellis Mannon, Zach Chase and Danny DiBenedetto next weekend at Iowa, as all three will be at the two-day Winter Cup competition in Las Vegas. The rest of the team will be in Iowa to face the Hawkeyes.
“We lose some big routines next week and losing those scores will impact our team,” said Burns. “We will be shorthanded and Iowa will have their full team. However, that provides opportunities for guys to step into the lineup and gives them a great chance to take advantage. I expect them to really step up this week.”