Jan. 17, 2013
The Minnesota men’s gymnastics team worked out the kinks last weekend at their annual Alumni Meet and now head to Chicago for the Windy City Invitational at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday.
“This time the scores count,” said head coach Mike Burns. “The Windy City Invitational is essentially our kickoff classic.”
There is no easing into the season as the event is loaded with Big Ten talent as powerhouses Michigan and Illinois join the Gophers, Iowa and Ohio State in the event, which is hosted by participant University of Illinois at Chicago.
“It will be a really good indicator of where we are going to being the Big Ten,” said Burns. “Penn State and Nebraska will not be there this week, but it will be a good chance to get our feet wet in the competition season. We have been training hard since school started and I think these guys are hungry to get on the competition floor and get the job done. Training is good, but competing is what we are here for.”
The squad, which features only one senior, began training in September, so Burns and his staff have had a few months to evaluate talent and piece together a travel squad. Still, despite months of evaluation, deciding who competes and who doesn’t is never an easy task.
“It is always tough to cut down to a 15-man team,” said Burns. “There is always that 16th guy who is really close.”
Some early-season injuries will have the Gophers shorthanded in a few events in Chicago. Minnesota will compete with only five gymnasts, as opposed to six, in high bar and rings. That means that every score in those two events will count for Minnesota, as opposed to having the lowest score dropped when six gymnasts compete.
Burns said it is an opportunity for those participating in high bar and rings to show their potential.
“It is a little nerve-wracking because at this point in the season you are still a little rough around the edges,” said the coach. “We are going to need people to step up. They have to get the job done and compete the way they want the season to go.”
Being a man down in two events will put even more emphasis on the floor exercise, vault, pommel horse and parallel bar routines and Burns is looking to his experienced gymnasts to lead the team.
“The older guys who have some competitive experience are always going to be looked up to provide some solid routines,” said Burns. “A guy like Adam LaFleur has been around quite a while and will be counted on. Ellis Mannon did a great job on the pommel horse and the parallel bars at the Alumni Meet and we are hoping that will continue.
“Harris Coleman came down with a slight knee injury right before the Alumni Meet so we had to back off a few things, but it looks like he is back in action and should be a real contributor for us as well. I think Adam Kern could be somebody who steps up for us, as he won the vault for us at the Alumni Meet. Matt Frey won parallel bars and took second on vault. We have a lot of guys who have great scoring potential. They need to meet that and maybe exceed it this weekend.”
The Gophers open up their home slate next weekend when they host Air Force at 1 p.m. on Jan. 26 in the Sports Pavilion in the Hall of Fame meet.