The University of Minnesota took fourth place at the Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships Friday night at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich. The fourth-place finish was one notch above the Gophers' 2007 fifth-place finish. Minnesota finished with a total of 348.000 points. Michigan and Illinois tied for the team title with a score of 357.100.
"It was a tough, hard-fought battle tonight at Crisler Arena," Gopher head coach Mike Burns said. "We did a decent job overall, but could have been a little sharper overall."
In the all-around competition, Minnesota's Aaron Fortunato took fifth place, good enough to earn All-Big Ten honors. He was seventh in the all-around at last year's conference championship.
"I was really pleased with Aaron Fortunato placing fifth in the all-around and making the All-Big Ten Team," Burns said.
Advancing to Saturday's individual event finals were Cole Storer (floor exercise, vault); Kit Beikmann (pommel horse); Aaron Fortunato (parallel bars, high bar); and Russell Dabritz (parallel bars).
The Gophers opened Friday's competition on the pommel horse and posted one of their top three scores of the season on the apparatus. Beikmann, a pommel horse specialist, led Minnesota in the event with a 14.750 score. All told, the Gophers put together a 56.650 score on the apparatus.
In the second rotation, the Gophers moved on to the event they have struggled most with this season -- the still rings. The Gophers tallied a 57.100 on the rings, their lowest total on the apparatus since late January. Dabritz led the way for Minnesota with a 14.600. From there, Minnesota moved on to the vault, one of their strongest events this season. The Gophers has posted four consecutive scores of 62.450 or better coming into the Big Ten Championships. But Friday's total came in at 61.500. Storer's 15.800 score was Minnesota's top performance.
Rotation four saw the Gophers on the parallel bars. Dabritz put up Minnesota's second-best individual score of the season on the bars, tallying a 15.050. With solid scores from Fortunato, Thomas O'Brien and Andre Berry, the Gophers ended up with their second-best team score of the season on the parallel bars. In the fifth rotation, Fortunato led the way with a 14.400 on the high bar. Ali Aleiou and Dabritz both scored 14.000 or better, but the Gophers still had their fourth-lowest score of the season.
In the final rotation, Minnesota hit the floor exercise. Storer led the way with a 15.250, as the Gophers tallied a 59.450. It was the fourth-best team score of the season for Minnesota. Adam Reichow, Eddie Campbell and Fortunato were the other three scoring members for the Gophers with respective scores of 14.900, 14.700 and 14.600.
"Our guys fought throughout the competition," Burns added. "They came away with a good sense of what it's going to take to make the team finals at the NCAA Championships in two weeks at the Sports Pavilion."
Saturday's individual event finals begin at 6 p.m. CT. The competition will air on the Big Ten Network.