THIS WEEK: The seventh-ranked University of Minnesota men’s gymnastics team will host its final regular-season meet of the season Saturday night at the Sports Pavilion. The Gophers will host No. 4 Illinois on Senior Night. It will be the final regular-season home meet for seniors Kit Beikmann, Eddie Campbell and Alex Quast.
THE OPPONENT: Illinois enters the meet as the No. 4-ranked team in the nation. The Fighting Illini are coming off a 354.900-353.900 victory over Michigan last week in Ann Arbor, Mich. Illinois is led by sophomores Paul Ruggeri and Daniel Ribeiro. Ruggeri won both the vault and the parallel bars at Michigan last week, while Ribeiro is the top-ranked gymnast in the nation on the pommel horse.
GOPHER POLL: Minnesota hung on at No. 7 in the NCAA/GymInfo rankings once again 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 tallied a school-record 58.650 on the pommel horse last week at Nebraska. That score helped lift Minnesota to a No. 3 national ranking in the event. The Gophers were paced by Kit Beikmann’s 15.050 and Thomas O’Brien’s 15.000. It was the first time ever that two Gophers had broken the 15-point plateau on the horse.
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.
DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME: Minnesota looks to be putting some things together as they head down the home stretch in the 2009 season. The Gophers put together season-high and school-record scores on the pommel horse and high bar last week. Minnesota also tallied a season-high vault score vs. Nebraska and Arizona State last weekend.
VAULTING UP THE RANKINGS: Buoyed by last week’s score of 63.050, Minnesota has moved into the No. 3 spot in the nation on the vault. Along with their No. 3 ranking on the pommel horse, the Gophers rank in the top seven on five of the six events. Minnesota also ranks No. 5 on the floor exercise, No. 6 on the parallel bars, No. 7 on the high bar and No. 10 on the still rings.
BURNS HONORED: Minnesota head coach Mike Burns will be honored with the 2008 Honor Coach Award by the College Gymnastics Association at the NCAA Championships, which will be held at Minnesota in April. This prestigious award is presented to individuals that have coached a minimum of 25 years and not only demonstrated a high level of competence, but leadership and success in the sport of gymnastics. Mike will now join the long list of distinguished coaches including legendary Golden Gopher gymnastics coach, Fred Roethlisberger, a 1998 honoree.
BURNS BITES: Quotes from Gopher head coach Mike Burns:
On last week’s wins over Nebraska and Arizona State:
“This was a great day for Gopher Gymnastics as these guys put together a season-high performance against a much-improved Cornhusker team. The bus ride back from Lincoln is a much easier ordeal after a meet like this. This was a much better performance by our team this week and the high team score is proof of their desire to excel. It was great to not only break into the 350’s but to do so convincingly.”
On this week’s meet with Illinois:
“Hosting a top-notch team like Illinois will be a real challenge for our guys. The Illinois team has been pretty consistent this year and they are a talented bunch of kids. But after last week’s performance at Nebraska, our guys are ready to take on the Illini. While Illinois is ranked higher at this point in the season, I really feel like we are hitting our stride and riding a big wave of momentum. We will need to bring our A game’ to the Pavilion this weekend, but I know our home crowd is always tough for visiting teams, so I’m looking forward to another great crowd that loves to cheer for their Gophers.”
On Senior Night:
“We will be honoring our three seniors who will be competing in their final home dual meet of their careers. It’s always a pretty emotional send-off and I anticipate great things out of Alex Quast, Eddie Campbell and Kit Beikmann. These three guys are my first class of incoming freshmen, so they hold an even more special place in my heart for all they have done to build this program to where it is today. I’ve spent a lot of hours in the gym with these three guys and it’s going to be tough to say farewell.”
COACH BURNS: Mike Burns is in his fifth season as head coach of the Minnesota men’s gymnastics team. 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. The Gophers narrowly missed the team finals last season, but have their designs set on a team finals appearance in their home gym in 2009. Burns was named 2007 Big Ten Coach of the Year and was also 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. Burns is currently serving as the President of the Collegiate Gymnastics Association. 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.