The University of Minnesota men's gymnastics team came within one rotation of capturing the 2007 Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championship on Friday night at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis. The Gophers were in first place heading into the final event of the night but were unable to hold the lead, finishing the evening on the most difficult event - pommel horse.
While Minnesota was unable to hold on, they used a home crowd of 872 roaring fans to place third overall with a team score of 215.250. Ohio State earned the conference crown with a mark of 217.750, while Penn State took second with a score of 217.650. Michigan was fourth at 214.350, while Illinois was fifth (211.900) and Iowa placed sixth (210.000).
Minnesota was strong on vault, tying Penn State for the highest score on the event with a 35.650. The Gophers also performed well on floor, pommel horse and high bar, scoring a 37.900, 34.550 and 35.350, which represented the second highest scores on all three events.
Senior Gopher gymnast Jake Lee posted a 53.650 to earn third place overall in the all-around. Illinois’ Wes Haagensen won the all-around title with a mark of 54.450 while Penn State’s Casey Sandy took second with a 54.300. Gopher freshman Andre Berry would make a strong impression in his first Big Ten Championship by placing fifth in the all-around (51.600).
Individually, Gopher freshmen Adam Reichow, Cole Storer and Andre Berry took fifth (9.60), sixth (9.55) and eighth (9.50) respectively on the floor exercise to qualify for tomorrow’s event finals. Sophomore Kit Beikmann took second on pommel horse with a 9.00, while junior Steve Vuong was fourth with a mark of 8.70 as both advanced to the finals.
Storer would join junior Mitchell Mays in reaching the finals of vault as the duo tied for fourth in the event with a 9.10. Junior Sergei Dmitriev would post a 9.40 on parallel bars to earn sixth place and reach tomorrow’s finals. Storer would qualify for finals on all three events he competed in as he took fourth on high bar to join Jake Lee in the finals as Lee was second in the event with a 9.20.
Tomorrow’s event finals will begin at 7 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion.
Minnesota head coach Mike Burns:
On his breakdown of each rotation:
We knew rings were going to be a good place for us to start. Of all of the events, it’s probably the easiest one to hit and go out and perform well on. So we knew that it was a great place to start and the guys did a good job. They stuck half of our dismounts, which was pretty good, although we would have liked to have a couple more. We were pleased with the performance. We knew some of the other teams were strong on the rings and we knew that we had to go out and do what we did. We did really well on the vault. We’re a pretty good vault team and we got two or three guys in the finals. Andre (Berry) had a little trouble on his vault, but the beauty of this team is what happened right after he went. Cole was next and he went out and stuck his vault. It’s like band of brothers mentality. One guy falls and the whole team picks him up and they just take it to the next point. Jake’s has had some problems on vault and he went out and did a great job. Parallel bars wasn’t our best event and we had a few fumbles there, but then Sergei goes out there and knocks out one of the best routines of the year for him. This is just a re-occurring theme with this gymnastics team.
I’m really proud of these guys for continuing to do that. It’s easy in this sport to have one or two guys have problems like we did in the high bar. Then Dre went and then Jake went and knocked out some of the best routines they’ve done all year. You could see the bench go from down to back up to a point where these guys were off the Richter scale. What can you say about the floor? Holy moley. It was awesome. We didn’t win floor, but we were really close. We just kept hitting routine after routine and the scores just kept building and building. We had our top score of the year. How can you ask for more? I pulled our guys together on the last event and we knew that it's a tough event to score on and we've had our problems on it in the past. I just told the guys, there's no time to be nervous, or frightened or have any fear. It was time to go out and grab what’s yours and they went out and did a great job. I’m super proud of these guys. We came into the event fourth and we handled some teams. It wasn’t so much handling them, but handling ourselves. We’ve got another meet to go and I can’t imagine this not building confidence. We have some problem areas to fix and we’ll address those and when we do look out.
On the meet:
The sport of gymnastics won tonight. The crowd, the energy, the enthusiasm, every team was just pulling for their guys. It’s one of those sport moments that I’ll never forget. It would have been nice to finish the meet after five events, but it doesn’t work that way. That’s what you do. You go out and train your butts off and perform and you do your job. The best team wins and Ohio State did a great job and I’m really happy for them and Penn State. We talked about that today. Every tenth counts and it really showed in the top two places. We could have dropped to fourth if we didn’t fight for every tenth and in the high bars. These guys came back and proved what they were made of.
Senior gymnast Jake Lee:
On going into the last round with the lead:
We all knew that we needed every single tenth and we needed guys to hit at their best to have a chance. It was pretty exciting. Most of the guys did the best that they could, but ended up not enough.
On Minnesota’s rotation on high bar:
On high bar we were having troubles. The energy level did go low a little bit, but we knew that we needed to get our energy back up. Dre (teammate Andre Berry) went up after Sergei and then I went and we were able to get up. As soon as we went to the floor, we knew that it was one of our strong events and the energy just kept going up and up. We weren’t really concerned after that point.
On where this Big Ten Championship compares to his previous three:
This was definitely the most exciting. It’s probably the best team that I’ve been on since I’ve been here. It’s always great to end with the Big Tens at home and have all the energy and the crowd behind you. To have all of your talented teammates there and pulling for you and every was going well. It was exciting and probably the most exciting Big Tens that I’ve ever been to.
Freshman gymnast Andre Berry:
On his and Jake Lee’s high bar routine that re-energized the team:
It’s always tough going after the guy that falls, but it’s just what teammates have to do. They have to pick up the slack for their other teammates and keep the energy up.
On his first Big Ten Championship meet:
Coming from a club experience is totally different experience. The whole team aspect where everyone is one unit is great. Everyone goes out there and is doing their best. With the enthusiasm and your teammates pulling for you, the crowd pulling for you is awesome. I had so much fun at this meet. Big Ten and NCAA gymnastics is one of those meets that you don’t get nervous for you go there to have fun.
Ohio State Head Coach Miles Avery
On the team coming in and winning the third title in a row:
Absolutely. We knew we had a team that could win a third championship in a row. As a team they talked a lot about that because this team is the first team in history of Ohio State Gymnastics to win a third championship in a row. The championship was certainly a goal to shoot for. Obviously winning two in a row, you have to shoot for something and that’s how we got this team hungry to win three in a row. That’s team effort in Ohio State history.”
On starting out slow and picking it up at the end:
Just like the season. Carbon copy of the season, carbon copy of last year’s championship as well. Starting up pommel horse is such a tough event. It is just great to get it out of the way. You look up at the leader board and we are in last place, just like last year. We just had to build and build and finally, at the final rotation, we came out on top. Exactly like last year, it’s exciting.
On how tough the Big Ten Conference is:
It is truly amazing. Even a team like Mike Burns, getting his team ready to go, he did a great job at home. We were looking up and Minnesota was beating us, and then Penn State, those last three events, the last performers up, exciting sports event.”
On coming into unfamiliar territory and winning the title:
We were looking forward to this competition, coming to Minnesota, doing a good job, and coming away with a championship.” So not coming into it this year, I don’t know if that mattered as much as just doing a good job here in Minnesota to win a championship.
On where OSU excelled past Penn State:
If that push past Penn State did not happen at the final event, the final performer, they are great on rings. Were great on floor, and it was going back and fourth until the final competitors on each event. For us to come out one-tenth and certainly Eddie Hay, he broke his foot in February and he had not done floor since then. So my hats off to him, he did any awesome job, for the first time in two months.
On heading into the national championship:
We are trying to win a championship to take this momentum to hopefully represent the Big Ten well. Coming away with another National Championship it boosts our confidence to know that you did that winning a championship and now go in and win another one to represent the Big Ten well, any of these teams would represent the Big Ten well in the championships.