Gophers Ready for NCAA Meet The Minnesota men's gymnastics team left the Twin Cities, en route for West Point and the NCAA Championships, Tuesday.
The University of Minnesota men's gymnastics team boarded an airplane bound for New York Tuesday morning. The Golden Gophers will eventually end up at the United States Military Academy this afternoon to begin preparations for the National Collegiate Men's Gymnastics Championships.
The Gophers will take place in the team qualifier Thursday evening, facing five other teams who will be vying for three spots in Friday's team finals. Minnesota head coach Mike Burns said his team has learned a great deal from an up-and-down season. "We've made really good progress through the course of the dual-meet season," Burns said. "We had a little setback at the Big Ten Championships, which was really disappointing because we were looking really good at that point in the season. So, we kind of re-evaluated our program and our plan. We pretty much stuck to the plan. Right now, we're in the process of coaching confidence. The physical work has been done, now it is all mental training, preparation and going out there with confidence in what they can do."
Burns is hoping that confidence will translate into his squad's first berth in the Gophers' finals since 2007.
"We'd love to make the team finals," Burns said. "We don't have control over that. The only thing we can control is our performance and our routines. So that's what we're going to focus on. There are 11 other teams there. We're one of them. We just want to focus on what we're capable of doing and hopefully we'll go out and have a great performance. If that's the case, hopefully that's enough to get into day two."
Burns said it was a special experience hosting the National Championships at the end of last season. The head coach and his team are looking forward to another unique experience for this year's NCAA meet at West Point.
"When you go there, it's not just another meet," Burns said. "You go there and you realize that those guys - everyone of those kids at school there - is going to be moving into harm's way in the next two or three years. My hat goes off to every one of them. It kind of gives me a little sense of patriotic pride as to what goes on in this country."
The Gophers will practice this evening, after their arrival in West Point. Wednesday afternoon will be spent with final practice preparations for the Thursday's competition. Wednesday evening will see the Nissen-Emery Award - the top award in men's collegiate gymnastics - handed out, with Gopher senior Aaron Fortunato as one of the finalists.
Then, Thursday at 6 p.m. CT, Minnesota will begin its quest to reach the team finals. The team finals are Friday night, with individual event finals slated for Saturday.