THIS WEEK: The seventh-ranked University of Minnesota men’s gymnastics team will host the two top-ranked teams in the nation this week. The Gophers play host to No. 1 Stanford and No. 2 Oklahoma Saturday at the Sports Pavilion. Saturday’s meet will be broadcast (tape-delayed) Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT by the Big Ten Network.
THE OPPONENTS: Stanford is the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. The Cardinal boast the top floor, still rings and high bar average scores in the nation. Stanford is coming off a loss to a team of Japanese All-Stars, but tallied its best score of the season last week. Oklahaoma features the top-ranked vault and parallel bars teams in the country. The Sooners are undefeated this season and defeated Nebraska last weekend.
GOPHER POLL: Minnesota slipped to No. 7 in the NCAA/GymInfo rankings this week. The Gophers were ranked No. 5 for two separate weeks earlier this season. Those two No. 5 rankings matched the highest Minnesota has ever climbed in the five-year tenure of head coach Mike Burns.
HORSING AROUND: The Gophers remained at No. 5 in the nation on the pommel horse this week. Minnesota’s season average of 57.317 is nearly a full point higher than last week’s average. Minnesota’s 58.250 score on the horse last week was easily its best of the season.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS: The 2009 NCAA Championships will be held on campus at the University of Minnesota. The 2009 national title will be decided at the Sports Pavilion April 16-18. Tickets are available at www.GopherSports.com or by calling 1.800.UGOPHER.
IT’S A RING THING: Minnesota struggled on the still rings for much of the season. The Gophers average still ring score ranks No. 10 in the nation, lowest among the six events. But Minnesota is slowly turning things around on the apparatus. The Gophers have turned in three straight season-high scores on the rings in the past three weeks. Freshman Russell Dabritz (Rowley, Mass.) recorded a season-high score of 14.850 last week at Illinois-Chicago.
WHOLE KIT AND KABOODLE: Pommel horse specialist Kit Beikmann was an All-America performer on the apparatus as a sophomore in 2007. He appears to be headed back toward those sorts of honors in his final collegiate season. Beikmann has posted back-to-back school record scores, breaking the 15-point plateau with both scores. He tallied a 15.050 two weeks ago at the Pacific Coast Classic and scored a 15.400 last week at UIC. On the strength of those performances, Beikmann ranks No. 3 in the nation on the horse and is the top-ranked horse competitor in this week’s meet.
GOOD FORTUN-ATO: This week’s opponents feature the two top-ranked parallel bars performers in the nation -- Sho Nakamori of Stanford and Steven Legendre of Oklahoma. But the Gophers have a pretty solid performer on the bars in Aaron Fortunato. The junior is currently ranked seventh in the nation on the apparatus.
BURNS BITES: Quotes from Gopher head coach Mike Burns:
On the win over Illinois-Chicago:
“After four solid events, it was a little disappointing to struggle on the last two events and give away a score that easily would have been above the 350 barrier. Kit Beikmann was in the zone last week on horse. Since Winter Cup, Kit has really been on the mark. Cole Storer and Russell Dabritz came ready to do some damage on pommels last week also. It was great to see them do such good sets.”
On Hosting Stanford and Oklahoma:
“We are looking for a full, six-event, great effort this week against the top two teams in college gymnastics. Our guys are ready to take on these giants of the gymnastics world and I believe we have a shot at being David to their Goliath. I’m looking forward to a super meet out of our guys and I know our visitors will be ready for action as well. I know one thing for sure this is going to be a real treat for our spectators.”