THIS WEEK: The eighth-ranked University of Minnesota men’s gymnastics team will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich. for the Big Ten Championships. Big Ten Team and All-Around Finals take place Friday night, beginning at 7 p.m. The Big Ten Individual Finals begin at 7 p.m. Saturday night. All of the Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Championships will take place at Cliff Keen Arena.
THE OPPONENTS: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State join Minnesota as the six Big Ten Conference schools which sponsor men’s gymnastics. Illinois is currently ranked No. 4 in the nation, followed directly by Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State and the Gophers. All six of the Big Ten men’s gymnastics teams are currently ranked in the NCAA/GymInfo Top 10.
GOPHER POLL: Minnesota dropped a spot to No. 8 in the NCAA/GymInfo rankings since its last competition. 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.
VAULTING TO THE TOP: The Gophers matched a season-high last week with a 63.050 score on the vault. Minnesota is now the No. 3-ranked vault team in the nation, ranking only behind the two best all-around teams in the nation, Stanford and Oklahoma.
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.
ON THE REBOUND: Minnesota had a rough outing in its final regular-season meet, falling to Illinois. Minnesota has followed a pattern of improving its team score in one competition, before seeing its score decline the next week. So, if the pattern holds, the Gophers should score well this weekend.
BEIKMANN NAMED FINALIST FOR AWARD: Minnesota pommel horse specialist Kit Beikmann (Sr., Brighton, Colo.) is a finalist for the Nissen-Emery Award. The “Heisman Trophy of Men’s Gymnastics” will be awarded at the NCAA Championships, to be held April 16-18 at the Sports Pavilion on the University of Minnesota campus.
REICHOW FLOORS ’EM: Adam Reichow (Jr., Eden Prairie, Minn.) recorded a school-record score on the floor exercise in Minnesota’s last outing. Reichow scored a 15.450, topping the previous record by a full three-tenths of a point. Reichow is currently ranked No. 18 in the nation on the floor.
BURNS BITES: Quotes from Gopher head coach Mike Burns:
On preparations for the Big Ten Championships:
“As we finalize our preparations for Big Tens, I am really pleased with the quality of the work I am seeing in the gym. We have created our formulas for success on each event and we aren’t talking about the pythagorean theorem here. It’s really a simple approach - be confident in your abilities and compete like a warrior.”
On the team’s goals at the Big Ten Championships:
“Our goal is the same every year - to win the Big Ten team title. The last time we won was back in 1995 and I see a lot of similarities between that team and the 2009 version of the Golden Gophers. The 1995 team was a talented group of guys, but several of the other Big Ten teams were ranked higher going into the Big Tens. The beauty of the Big Ten Gymnastics Championships is the fact that the final results are usually pretty darn close. That means a stuck dismount here or a peak performance there can be the difference between a championships and a fourth-place finish. This is an intense meet and I believe we have some intense guys on this squad. I am very eager to watch them perform in what I think is the most exciting competition in the world. This team knows exactly what’s possible this year and now it’s just a matter of raising their hands and showing their stuff to the fans, their teammates and the judges. The final results will speak for themselves.”
On the team’s status heading into the Big Ten Championships:
“Health-wise our guys are doing well. It’s a long season and it takes its toll on their bodies, but our athletic trainer Jen Novak has done a great job of keeping them healthy, so it’s just a matter of feeling strong and confident going into Ann Arbor at the end of the week. One important thing our guys will need to remember is how to regulate their energy level from event to event and find the right zone to compete within. If we can do this I can see us having a solid outing this weekend.”
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.