THIS WEEK: Three current team members, as well as two alumni, will compete at the USA Gymnastics Winter Cup in Las Vegas, Nev. The current team members who will be competing are Aaron Fortunato, Andre Berry, and Cole Storer. Representing the Gopher alumni will be Guillermo Alvarez, and Jake Lee.
The Winter Cup Challenge has two days of competition. Scores from both days of competition count toward the final rankings for the all-around and individual events. The qualification round on Feb. 7 consists of two sessions, each with approximately 44 athletes, beginning at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. (CST) The top 42 gymnasts, based on the points ranking system approved by the Men’s Program Committee, will advance to the finals, which begin at 8:15 p.m. (CST) on Feb. 9.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: The Winter Cup serves as a re-ranking competition for the U.S. senior men’s team. Based on performances at the Winter Cup Challenge, seven gymnasts will be named to the senior national team. The seven members of the 2007 World Championships Team, which placed fourth in the team standings, automatically retain their national team status.
A LOOK AT THE GOPHERS: Three members of the Gopher squad will compete at the Winter Cup this weekend. Aaron Fortunato, Andre Berry, and Cole Storer will each compete in the all around. Aaron Fortunato owns the team’s top four scores in the all around this season, with his best scoe of 85.100 coming in the meet against Calgary on Jan. 26. Fortunato is the only Minnesota gymnast to compete in the all around in all four competitions so far this season. He is not ranked in any individual events, but is listed at No. 18 in the all around in the GymInfo National Rankings this week. Andre Berry was an all around competitor at the season opening-Windy City Invitational, where he earned a mark of 80.250. Cole Storer has yet to compete in the all around this season, but has been training on all six events. He is one of the team’s top vaulters, and is currently ranked No. 6 in the nation on vault. Storer is the team’s top preformer on the high bar, and owns the team’s top score in that event with a 15.000. He is ranked No. 20 nationally on high bar this week.
MINNESOTA’S ALUMNI COMPETING AT THE WINTER CUP: Three former Gopher gymnasts will compete at the Winter Cup this weeken, all vying for a spot on the U.S. Senior Men’s Team. Guillermo Alvarez (2002-05) helped the U.S. Men finish fourth at the 2007 World Championships and also placed fourth on the floor exercise. At the 2007 Pan American Games, he won the silver medal on floor exercise and the bronze medal in the all-around and team competition. He trains with Minnesota Gymnastics. Jake Lee (2004-07) competed at the 2006 and 2007 Visa Championships. His highest finish at the 2007 Visa Championship was 16th on the still rings. He placed 29th on pommel horse and parallel bars.
POLL POSITION: The Golden Gophers remained at No. 8 in this week’s edition of the GymInfo National Rankings. All six of the Big Ten teams are among the top 10 this week, with Penn State holding on to the No. 1 spot. Illinois is listed at No. 5, Michigan is No. 6, Ohio State is No. 7, and Iowa is No. 10. In the event rankings, the Gophers’ highest ranking is No. 4 on vault. Minnesota is also in the top 10 on high bar (No. 7) and floor exercise (No. 8).
RANKED GOPHERS: Four Minnesota gymnasts are listed in the national rankings this week. Senior Mitchell Mays holds the highest individual rankings among the Gophers. He remains the No. 1-ranked gymnast on vault this week. Sophomore Cole Storer is ranked in two events, with his highest ranking coming in at No. 6 on vault. Storer is also listed at No. 20 on the high bar. Sophomore Aaron Fortunato is ranked No. 18 in the all around this week, while junior Kit Beikmann is No. 9 on pommel horse.
GOPHERS ON THE BIG TEN NETWORK: The Minnesota men’s gymnastics team will be one of the many Olympic sports benefitting from the new Big Ten Network. The Golden Gophers are scheduled to make two appearances on the network during the 2008 season, beginning with Minnesota’s home tri-meet with Illinois and Iowa on March 21. The BTN will also air the league’s conference championship on April 4-5. Minnesota’s meet against Penn State this week was scheduled to be broadcast by the BTN but was later dropped when the meet format was changed to a double-dual with the Nittany Lion women’s gymnastics team.
NEW SCORING SYSTEM ADOPTED: The 2008 men’s gymnastics season will feature a new scoring system. The NCAA has elected to adopt the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) open-ended Code of Points, which has been used internationally since 2005. The new system allows for scoring above the ever-popular 10 points with each score being broken down into two components: exercise composition and exercise presentation. The gymnast’s final score is the sum of the two elements.
HEAD COACH MIKE BURNS: Mike Burns is in his fourth season as head coach of the Minnesota men’s gymnastics team and is in the process of bringing about a complete transformation of the Golden Gopher program. In 2007 the Gophers began to make the kind of moves Burns envisioned when he arrived in the Twin Cities. Competing in the toughest gymnastics conference in the nation, the Gophers posted an impressive third place finish at the Big Ten Championships. Two weeks later the squad advanced to the team finals at the NCAA Championships, where it recorded a sixth-place finish. It was the first time Minnesota had advanced to the team finals at the NCAA meet since 1990, as the claimed All-America citations. These types of results are nothing new for Burns, who was named 2007 Big Ten Coach of the Year and over the summer was selected as the 2007 USA Gymnastics Men’s Coach of the Year. In 2005, his first year as the Gopher’s head coach, Burns coached Guillermo Alvarez to the Nissen-Emery Award, which is given to the nation’s top senior gymnast. It was only the third time a Gopher gymnast had earned the prestigious award and the first time it had happened since 1993. Under Burns, Alvarez also was the vault champion at the Big Ten Championships and won the floor exercise at the 2005 U.S. National Championships. A native of Norwood, Mass., Burns came to Minnesota from Michigan, where he served as an assistant men’s coach from 1997-2004. Burns received the National Assistant Coach of the Year award in 1999, while helping lead Michigan to the 1999 NCAA Championship. He earned the same honor in 2000, after leading the Wolverines to the second of two-consecutive Big Ten team titles. During his tenure at Michigan, he coached five national champions, 37 All-Americans, and 14 Big Ten champions. Burns is a 1981 graduate of Penn State.
UP NEXT: The Gophers will return to the friendly confines of the Sports Pavilion when they host Illinois-Chicago in a dual meet on Saturday, Feb. 16. The competition is slated to begin at 7 p.m. Live scoring, as well as a webcast will be available on www.gophersports.com.