Sophomore Aaron Fortunato scored a season-high to win the all-around and sophomore Colin McGuire recorded wins on both floor exercise and high bar to lead the No. 8-ranked Minnesota men’s gymnastics team to a 345.000-330.700 victory over No. 13 Illinois-Chicago Saturday night at the Sports Pavilion.
The 345.00 points were a season high for Minnesota (4-6), which combined to win five of the six team events, while claiming individual event winners on floor, pommel horse, vault, parallel bars and high bar.
“This was definitely our best meet of the year,” head coach Mike Burns said. “I was really pleased with how the guys performed and the confidence they displayed. It really showed up on the pommel horse, where we had a season-high score by a couple of points. We really came out ready to go.”
Did they ever. The Golden Gophers swept the top five spots on floor exercise and posted three of the top four scores on pommel horse to take a commanding 7.150 lead at 114.200-107.050 after the first two rotations.
McGuire registered a season-high score of 14.850 to take home the top spot on floor, while junior Kit Beikmann blew away the competition to pick up his third win of the season on pommel horse with a score 14.850.
Minnesota pushed its advantage to nearly 10 points after the third and fourth rotations, thanks to another stellar outing on vault. The Gophers combined to score 62.500 points just five-tenths shy of a team season high and earned the top three scores in the event.
Senior Mitchell Mays was once again the class of the field. The nation’s top-ranked performer on vault this year, Mays scored 16.350 points to win going away. Andre Berry, who scored 15.600 points, and McGuire, who was awarded a 15.550, also turned in strong performances to finish second and third.
Mays’ performance was one of the highlights of the meet and really got the crowd going.
“Mitchell’s vault is just so exciting, it’s just phenomenal,” said Burns. “I feel sorry for the people that don’t get a chance to come out and watch him because it’s just amazing what he is doing. Its history and he just makes it look so easy.”
Senior co-captain Sergei Dmitriev earned the highest score of the season by a Gopher on parallel bars, winning the event with a 15.000, and Fortunato pocketed his second top-three finish with a season-best 14.500 to take second and keep the momentum firmly in the corner of Minnesota.
The Gophers then closed out the competition by earning the top four scores on high bar. McGuire picked up his second win on the night with a score of 14.200, with senior co-captain Steve Vuong placing second. Fortunato and Berry rounded out the Minnesota sweep, tying for third place.
But it was Fortunato’s career-best all-around performance that really had Burns beaming.
“I was really happy with Aaron Fortunato,” Burns said. “Every meet he gets a little steadier. It’s been really fun working with him because he continues to make small adjustments that end up making huge differences in his performance. To see his development and consistency is really exciting.”
The same could be said for the Gophers as a whole. After taking a few small steps back in its most recent dual meets, Minnesota unveiled a sense of renewed confidence and enthusiasm, which according to Burns is the result of plenty of hard work.
“We’ve been focusing on improving our execution and concentrating on finishing strong over the past few weeks and I think it really showed at the end of our routines,” said Burns. “The preparation we’ve been doing really paid off tonight.”
The Gophers are idle next week and don’t return to action until March 1, when Minnesota welcomes Nebraska at Temple to the Sports Pavilion for an intersectional tri-meet. The competition gets underway at 7 p.m.
Men’s College Gymnastics
No. 13 Illinois at No. 8 Minnesota
University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion
Feb. 16, 2008
FINAL TEAM SCORES
1. Minnesota, 345.000; 2. Illinois-Chicago, 330.700.
FLOOR EXERCISE (Minnesota, 57.750; Illinois-Chicago, 53.650)
1. Colin McGuire (MINN) 14.850; 2. Adam Reichow (MINN) 14.400; 3. Aaron Fortunato (MINN) 14.250; Andre Berry (MINN) 14.250.
POMMEL HORSE (Minnesota, 56.450; Illinois-Chicago, 53.400)
1. Kit Beikmann (MINN) 14.850; 2. Neal Thompson (UIC) 14.050; 3. Michael Hillin (MINN) 14.000.
STILL RINGS (Illinois-Chicago, 55.850; Minnesota, 55.400)
1. Nikolai Korepanov (UIC) 14.150; 2. Aaron Fortunato (MINN) 14.100; Neal Thompson (UIC) 14.100.
VAULT (Minnesota, 62.500; Illinois-Chicago, 59.750)
1. Mitchell Mays (MINN) 16.350; 2. Andre Berry (MINN) 15.600; 3. Colin McGuire (MINN) 15.550.
PARALLEL BARS (Minnesota, 57.450; Illinois-Chicago, 54.900)
1. Sergei Dmitriev (MINN) 15.000; 2. Aaron Fortunato (MINN) 14.500; Neal Thompson (UIC) 14.500.
HIGH BAR (Minnesota, 55.450; Illinois-Chicago, 53.150)
1. Colin McGuire (MINN) 14.200; 2. Steve Vuong (MINN) 13.850; 3. Aaron Fortunato (MINN) 13.700; Andre Berry (MINN) 13.700.
1. Aaron Fortunato (MINN) 85.250; 2. Neal Thompson (UIC) 82.850; 3. Michael Hillin (MINN) 81.850.