April 10, 2014
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Seven Golden Gophers advanced in individual events, but the No. 7 Minnesota men's gymnastics team finished fourth in the second session of the NCAA national qualifier Thursday night.
Michigan (444.100), Ohio State (437.950) and Penn State (433.100) advanced to Friday's team final as the top three teams in the session. The Gophers finished with 429.550 points ahead of Nebraska (429.550) and Air Force (418.200).
In addition to the top three teams, the top three all-around competitors not on one of the qualifying teams, plus the top three individuals on each event not already qualified on a team or as an all-around competitor, advance to Friday's competition.
Junior all-arounder Ellis Mannon finished second with a score of 86.550 to advance to the all-around finals on Friday. Mannon earned his highest scores of the night on parallel bars (15.150) and pommel horse (15.050).
Senior Zack Chase (still rings and vault) and junior Steve Jaciuk (parallel bars and high bar) each advanced in two events, while freshman Zach Liebler (floor), senior Steffen Beck (pommel horse), sophomore Paul Montague, Jr. (pommel horse) and senior Matt Frey (parallel bars) also advanced in the individual competition. These six Gophers will join Mannon in competing Friday.
"We were shooting for a top-three finish to make it into the team finals, and we came up a bit short," head coach Mike Burns said. "We do have at least one person competing on all six events tomorrow, so that's a really good representation. Although we had a few spots where we struggled tonight, the guys kept fighting throughout and never gave up."
Minnesota began the meet on parallel bars where the team was led by Mannon (15.150), Jaciuk (15.150) and Frey (15.100). Jaciuk (14.850) also led Minnesota in third overall on high bar in the second rotation. Senior Sam Wright picked up a 14.150 while junior Spencer Smith scored a season-high 14.000 on high bar as well, and Minnesota was in fifth place with 141.000 after the first two rotations.
Liebler (14.750) and junior Sean Bauer (14.700) led the Gophers on floor exercise in the third rotation.
Minnesota then scored its second-highest pommel horse score of the season with a 71.700 in the fourth rotation led by Mannon (15.050) in a tie for fifth overall and Beck (14.550). Senior John Scallon and Montague both scored 14.300 for 15th overall, and Montague earned the final spot in Friday's competition on a tie-breaker (national qualifying average).
The Gophers scored a 72.500 on still rings in the fifth rotation. Bauer kicked things off on rings with a 14.000, followed by Chase with a 15.000 to tie for third place, and Montague with a 14.500. Sophomore Jack Metcalf scored a 14.650, and Jaciuk wrapped up the fifth rotation with a 14.350.
Minnesota was in fourth heading into vault for the final rotation (356.750), and despite scoring a 72.800 for their highest score of the evening, the Gophers could not overcome the deficit and finished in fourth overall. Bauer kicked off vault for the Gophers with a 14.500, followed by Frey (14.350) and Kern (14.550). Mannon earned a 14.400, and Chase capped off the night with a 15.000.
"The last three events went well," Burns said. "Horse and rings were great, and vault was pretty good. It was disappointing that we were about 3.5 points short, and if you look at our margin of error, that's about what we gave away. Overall, there were some good things, it got interesting at the end there. We put some pressure on them but could not recover after getting in a little bit of a hole at the beginning."
Oklahoma, Stanford and Illinois advanced to Friday's team finals from the first national qualifying session. Friday's competition, which includes the team and all-around finals, begins at 6 p.m. CT at Michigan's Crisler Center.
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