Gophers Set for B1G Championships
March 26, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS - The No. 5 Golden Gophers will travel to Lincoln, Neb., this weekend to compete at the 2014 Big Ten Championships. The Gophers finished third at the event last year and look to repeat with another podium finish. Minnesota enters the meet third among Big Ten teams in the GymInfo national rankings with six of the B1G teams ranked among the nation's top 10.
The B1G championships will take place at Nebraska's Bob Devaney Sports Center this Friday and Saturday. Action gets underway at 6 p.m. CT Friday and 4 p.m. CT Saturday, and both days of competition will air live on the Big Ten Network.
LAST TIME OUT: GOPHERS PLACE THIRD OF FIVE AT NEBRASKA
Minnesota capped off the regular season by traveling to Lincoln, Neb., to compete against No. 6 Illinois, No. 7 Iowa, No. 10 Air Force and No. 12 Nebraska. Among tough competition, the Gophers finished in third place with a final team score of 432.000 behind Iowa and Illinois, who scored 437.250 and 434.850, respectively. Host Nebraska came in fourth with a score of 428.4500 while Air Force finished in fifth with a 422.000.
As a team, Minnesota outscored all four teams on floor exercise with a 74.500. Justin Morinishi led the way, finishing the event with a personal season-high score of 15.250 while both Zack Chase and Adam Kern added scores of 15.000 on floor exercise.
2013 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS REWIND
Minnesota turned in a strong performance at the 2013 Big Ten Championships. The host Gophers earned a 430.350 to finish third among the seven teams in the team competition, marking the first time the Gophers finished on the podium since taking third in 2007. Michigan won the conference crown with a score of 438.900, while Wolverine Olympian Sam Mikulak took home top individual honors on the all-around (89.850).
Minnesota closed the event with a sparkling performance on the still rings. The Gophers team score of 74.150 allowed them to finish second in the event and also moved them from fifth in the overall meet to third, securing a podium finish.
Six Gophers advanced to the individual event finals: Harris Coleman (pommel horse), Ellis Mannon (pommel horse), Steve Jaciuk (still rings, high bar), Jack Metcalf (still rings), Matt Frey (parallel bars) and Daniel DiBenedetto (high bar). Returners Mannon (second on pommel horse, 14.900) and Jaciuk (third on high bar, 15.000) led the Gophers in the individual event finals.
GOPHERS VS. B1G FOES IN 2014
The Gophers have faced every team from the Big Ten already this season, running into some of their league opponents multiple times. Minnesota last saw Michigan and Ohio State at the season-opening Windy City Invitational, where the Gophers placed fourth with a score of 424.800. Michigan and Ohio State finished with scores of 437.500 and 436.050, respectively.
The B1G championships will be the Gophers' fifth meeting with Iowa in 2014. After coming out ahead in their first three meetings, the Gophers finished below Iowa in their most recent meeting. Minnesota has faced Illinois three times already this season, at the Windy City Invitational, at home at the Sports Pavilion, and at its last meet at Nebraska. The Gophers will look to even the score at Big Tens, as Illinois has placed ahead of the Gophers in two of their three meets together.
Nebraska has already competed against the Gophers twice this season, including Minnesota's last outing, and the Gophers have prevailed both times. The Gophers have seen Penn State only once this season, when the team fell to the Nittany Lions on the road, 440.200 to 431.500.
GOPHERS IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS
After a week off from competition, the Gophers remained at No. 5 in both the national rankings and the coaches poll with a four-meet average of 433.800. Heading into the Big Ten Championships, the Gophers are the third-ranked B1G team, behind No. 2 Ohio State (442.167) and No. 4 Michigan (440.283). No. 1 Oklahoma (443.917) and No. 3 Stanford (442.017) round out the national top five. Other Big Ten schools behind the Gophers in the top 15 include No. 6 Illinois (433.633), No. 7 Penn State (432.300), No. 8 Iowa (432.017) and No. 11 Nebraska (423.500).
For team events, the Gophers are ranked third on floor exercise (74.083), fifth on parallel bars (72.350), sixth on vault (73.700), eighth on pommel horse (70.450) and still rings (73.150), and ninth on high bar (71.383). In the top-10 individual rankings, senior Zack Chase is ranked fifth on vault (15.15), senior Matt Frey is ranked sixth on parallel bars (15.083) and junior captain Steve Jaciuk is tied for seventh on parallel bars (15.050).
CHASE NAMED FINALIST FOR 2014 NISSEN-EMERY AWARD
Senior Zack Chase was named one of the nine finalists for the prestigious 2014 Nissen-Emery Award, given annually to the nation's outstanding senior gymnast. Three Gophers have received the award since 1966 including Tim LaFleur (1978), John Roethlisberger (1993) and most recently, Guillermo Alvarez (2005).
Chase claimed the Big Ten title on vault as a freshman and followed up with a B1G runner-up showing on vault as a sophomore. During his collegiate career, Chase has participated in two NCAA championships. This season, Chase was named the Gophers' Louis J. Cooke Award winner for outstanding performance against Illinois and Nebraska, posting scores above 15.000 on his three events with a 15.150 for second place on vault and a 15.100 for fourth on still rings; his 15.100 on still rings also marked a career-best score. Chase is poised to lead the Gophers in the 2014 postseason as well.
UP NEXT: 2014 NCAA QUALIFIER & CHAMPIONSHIPS
After the Big Ten championships, the Gophers will take a one-week break from competition to prepare for the NCAA Championships hosted by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. The NCAA Qualifying Round will take place on Thursday, April 10, with the NCAA Championships set for Friday-Saturday, April 11-12.