NORMAN, Okla. -- Six University of Minnesota gymnasts advanced to the third and final day of the 2015 NCAA Championships after nine Golden Gophers competed in the individual event preliminaries at Oklahoma University's Lloyd Noble Center on Friday evening.
The nine Gophers including seniors Ellis Mannon (all-around), Steve Jaciuk (high bar and still rings) and Jack Metcalf (still rings), juniors Paul Montague (pommel horse) and Danny DiBenedetto (high bar), sophomore Zach Liebler (floor exercise) and freshmen Joel Gagnon (floor exercise), Jalon Stephens (parallel bars) and Yaroslav Pochinka (vault) represented the Maroon and Gold in the individual event preliminary competition.
Two Gopher freshmen will appear in the individual event finals as Joel Gagnon scored a career-high 15.60 on floor exercise to finish the evening in a tie for second place while Yaroslav Pochinka tied for fourth place on vault with a score of 15.10. Both freshmen will end their successful rookie campaigns by competing for an NCAA crown on Saturday evening.
Sophomore Zach Liebler earned a career-high 15.40 on floor exercise and will make his first NCAA Individual Event Finals debut on Saturday night. Last season, Liebler placed 12th on floor exercise during the second day of competition.
Senior Steve Jaciuk, who was the lone Gopher to qualify for two events, earned second place on high bar by tallying a 15.10 on the apparatus. This marks the second consecutive year Jaciuk advances to the final day of competition on high bar. Last season, he finished ninth on high bar with a score of 14.55. Jaciuk also competed on still rings earning a 14.60.
Jack Metcalf had a shining moment on still rings as he posted a career-high 15.60 to tie for fourth place on the apparatus sending Metcalf to compete for his first-ever NCAA crown.
Defending NCAA pommel horse champion, Ellis Mannon, will make his third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Individual Event Finals on Saturday. Mannon competed in the all-around competition finishing in twelfth place overall but finished in a tie for fifth place on pommel horse to advance to the final round of competition on the apparatus. The 2015 Nissen-Emery Award winner earned a second place finish in 2013 before winning the national championship on pommel horse last season.
Freshman Jalon Stephens finished in 23rd overall on parallel bars as he tallied a 14.250. Junior co-captain Paul Montague finished one place above Stephens in a three-way tie for 20th when he scored a 14.350. Junior Danny DiBenedetto competed on high bar earning a 14.50 to finish in a tie for 22nd overall.
Minnesota narrowly missed qualifying for the team finals on Thursday evening as they placed in fourth place behind Big Ten competitor Penn State by two tenths of a point. Oklahoma dominated in the team finals on Friday evening scoring a 447.50 to earn its ninth national championship in program history. Stanford and Penn State rounded out the top three scoring a 440.45 and 439.50, respectively.
The six Gophers will compete in the individual event finals set for tomorrow night at 7 p.m. CT. Fans can watch the event on NCAA.com/liveschedule or follow live results of the event by visiting the Championship Central page here.
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