THIS WEEK: The eighth-ranked Minnesota men’s gymnastics team will look to make a return appearance in the NCAA team finals when the Golden Gophers take to the floor at Maples Pavilion in Session II of the 66th Annual National Collegiate Men’s Gymnastics Championships at Stanford University on Thursday, April 17, at 9 p.m. (CDT). Minnesota will battle Big Ten rivals No. 5 Illinois and No. 9 Iowa as well as No. 1 Stanford, No. 4 California and No. 13 Temple in the evening session qualifier, with the top three teams advancing to compete against the top three teams in the afternoon qualifying session in the team finals on Friday, April 18, at 9 p.m. (CDT). The top three all-around competitors not on one of the qualifying teams, plus the top three individuals on each event not already qualified on a team or as an all-around competitor, will advance from each qualifying session to the individual event finals, which will take place on Saturday, April 19 at 9 p.m. (CDT). Live scoring will be available throughout the competition via Stanford’s athletics website, www.gostanford.com.
GOPHERS AT THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS: Though Minnesota has never captured the team title, the Golden Gophers possess one of the nation’s most impressive histories at the National Collegiate Men’s Gymnastics Championships. A total of 32 gymnasts, including four current Golden Gophers have earned a total of 81 All-America citations at the championships. Minnesota has also won 15 individual event championships - two on floor exercise, three on pommel horse, two on still rings, one on vault, two on parallel bars, one on high bar - and produced two all-around champions, including three-time winner John Roethlisberger, who captured titles in 1991-92-93. The Gophers’ most recent individual event champion was current volunteer assistant coach Clay Strother. Strother won both the floor exercise and pommel horse crowns in 2002.
MINNESOTA AT THE 2007 TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: Minnesota placed sixth overall with a season-best score of 217.150 points in the finals of the team competition of the 2007 NCAA Championships held Penn State. Jake Lee and current sophomore Andre Berry earned All-America honors in the all-around, marking the first time in the history of Minnesota gymnastics that two Gophers have been named All-Americans in the all-around in the same season. The Gophers placed third in the Session II qualifier to reach the finals. Minnesota scored 216.900 points to finish just behind Penn State (218.900) and Oklahoma (218.600).
GOPHERS ALSO SHINED DURING THE 2007 INDIVIDUAL EVENT FINALS: Four Gophers, including three current gymnasts, earned five All-America citations during the 2007 event finals of the NCAA Championships. Current sophomore Adam Reichow earned two All-America honors as he finished second on the floor exercise with a mark of 9.55 and took sixth on vault with a score of 8.975. Jake Lee earned All-America status in the all-around and added to his resume by placing fourth on parallel bars with a score of 9.450 to earn another All-America honor. Cole Storer, now a sophomore, joined Reichow as an All-American on floor exercise by scoring a 9.45 to take sixth. Current junior Kit Beikmann tallied an 8.875 on pommel horse to finish seventh overall and also earned All-America honors. With the inclusion of Lee and current sophomore Andre Berry from the all-around, the Gophers concluded the NCAA Championships with five All-Americans and seven total All-America citations.
AGAINST THE QUALIFYING FIELD: Minnesota has faced four of the five teams it will battle during the evening qualifying session on Thursday, April 17, and owns a 5-4 record against the field in 2008. The Golden Gophers are 3-0 vs. Iowa, 1-0 vs. Temple, 1-3 vs. Illinois and 0-1 vs. Stanford. Minnesota and California did not meet during the 2008 campaign. Minnesota defeated the Hawkeyes at the Windy City Invitational, on March 21 in Minneapolis and at the Big Ten Championships. The Gophers also knocked off Temple in a double-dual at home on March 1 and claimed their lone victory over Illinois in Champaign on Jan. 19.
EXPERIENCE COUNTS: Minnesota will be represented by a solid and experienced squad when the Gophers travel to Stanford for the 2008 National Collegiate Men’s Gymnastics Championships. In fact, the Gophers are sending virtually the same squad that competed at last year’s championship meet. Eleven of the 12 Gophers who helped Minnesota to its sixth-place finish in 2007 are listed on the Gophers’ competition roster, with 10 of them currently penciled in on the team’s event-by-event lineup. Minnesota also boasts four returning All-Americans - Andre Berry (all-around), Kit Beikmann (pommel horse), Adam Reichow (floor/vault) and Cole Storer (floor).
PEAKING AT THE RIGHT TIME: A quick glance at the Gophers’ season team scores is all you need to see that Minnesota is hitting its stride heading into the NCAA Championships. The Golden Gophers have cracked the 350-point mark in each of their last three meets and just misses posting a season-high in their last outing at the Big Ten team championship with 351.450 points. In their last two outings, Minnesota has tallied its season-high overall total of 351.500 points (vs. Illinois/Iowa on March 21) and recorded team event bests on floor (60.000), rings (58.150), vault (64.150) and parallel bars (58.600). Individually, 11 Minnesota gymnasts set or equaled at least one season-best marks in the Gophers’ last two outings.
IN THE TEAM RANKINGS: Since opening the year with a preseason ranking of No. 7, Minnesota has held steady in the No. 8 position for the majority of the season. The Golden Gophers have upped their national scoring average to 348.590 in recent weeks and have posted their two best team scores of the season in their last two outings. The improved performances have lifted Minnesota into the top 10 nationally in 5-of-6 events. The Gophers, who posted the best team score on vault at the Big Ten Championships, enter the NCAA Championships ranked No. 2 on vault. The Gophers also rank eighth on floor exercise, pommel horse, and high bar and ninth on parallel bars, while sitting just outside the top 10 as the nation’s No. 11 team on rings.
RANKED GOPHERS: Eight Minnesota gymnasts are listed in the top 25 of this week’s national event rankings. Senior Mitchell Mays holds the highest individual ranking among the Gophers and remains the No. 1-ranked gymnast in the country on vault this week. Junior Kit Beikmann also owns a top-10 national ranking and is currently fourth on pommel horse. Sophomore Cole Storer is the only Gopher currently ranked in the top 25 on three events, ranking No. 15 on floor exercise, No. 24 on vault and No. 9 on high bar. Three other Gophers also own national vault rankings, with sophomore Andre Berry ranked tied for 14th, sophomore Adam Reichow ranked No. 18 and sophomore Colin McGuire ranked No. 23. McGuire is also ranked No. 24 on high bar, while senior Sergei Dmitriev is ranked No. 16 on parallel bars. In all-around, sophomore Aaron Fortunato checks in at No. 12 this week with an average score of 84.990.
ALL-BIG TEN PERFORMERS: Two Golden Gophers picked up All-Big Ten honors at the conference championship. Senior Mitchell Mays, the Big Ten vault champion, claimed first team honors, while junior Kit Beikmann, who placed second on pommel horse, was a second team selection.
SIMPLY A-MAYS-ING: Senior Mitchell Mays is having one of the best years in recent Minnesota gymnastics history. The nation’s top performer on vault throughout the 2008 season and the favorite to win the NCAA vault title with his Tsukahara double pike, Mays has scored 16.350 or better eight times this year and leads the country with an average score of 16.600, including a pair of season-best scores of 16.650. Mays has also been a stalwart for the Gophers on rings and parallel bars. He own’s Minnesota’s top four rings scores, including a season-high 15.100 at Oklahoma, as well as the Gophers’ sixth-best score on p-bars.
LORD OF THE POMMELS: Junior Kit Beikmann, who this week ranks fourth nationally on pommel horse, continues to shine on the event for Minnesota. Beikmann has finished in the top three on pommel horse in eight of nine meets so far this season, with four wins. He also owns the top five scores in the event this year for the Gophers and enters the week with a national average of 14.830. Beikmann scored a season-high 15.000 points to win the event at Oklahoma. It was one of just two wins on the day for the Gophers.
SUPER SOPHOMORES: Minnesota’s sophomore class has played a huge role this season, posting a number of the team’s top performances. Cole Storer, who ranks in the top 25 nationally on floor exercise, vault and high bar, has been one of the Big Ten’s most consistent performers this season. Minnesota had also received strong contributions from Colin McGuire (floor, h-bar), Adam Reichow (floor, vault), Michael Hillin (horse) and Andre Berry (floor, vault, p-bars, h-bar). The workhorse of the group, however, has been Aaron Fortunato. The only Gopher to compete in the all-around in all nine competitions this season (including the Winter Cup), Fortunato ranks 12th nationally in the all-around this week with an average of 84.990. He also owns top-5 team scores on floor (15.150) and parallel bars (14.500) this year for Minnesota.
MINNESOTA BY EVENT
FLOOR EXERCISE: Floor exercise is one of Minnesota’s top events. The Gophers scored a season-high 60.000 points on floor in their regular-season finale vs. Illinois/Iowa on March 21 for their highest non-vault score of the season. Minnesota is ranked No. 8 nationally on floor as a team and will be led by a group of six sophomores. Cole Storer, a 2007 All-American, is the headliner of the contingent and owns five of Minnesota’s top-seven scores this season, including a pair of 15.300s. The nation’s 15th-ranked gymnast this week on floor, Storer has hit the 15-point mark in 6-of-8 appearances this season. All-arounder Aaron Fortunato earned the Gophers’ third-best score this season with a 15.150, while Adam Reichow, also an All-American in 2007, owns the team’s fifth-best mark of 15.050. Andre Berry has a season-high of 14.900 and could also figure in the scoring for Minnesota.
POMMEL HORSE: Pommel horse may be one of the Gophers’ weakest event as a team, but it ironically offers Minnesota one of its best chance for an individual event title. The Gophers posted a season-high of 56.450 points on pommel horse vs. Illinois-Chicago and ranks eighth in the country on the event with a national average of 55.720 points. Big Ten runner-up and 2007 All-American Kit Beikmann will lead the way for the Gophers and should battle conference champion Dan Ribeiro of Illinois for the top spot. Aaron Fortunato, Michael Hillin and Sergei Dmitriev also have the potential to top 14 points for Minnesota in this event.
STILL RINGS: Still rings have been a bit of an enigma for the Gophers in 2008. Minnesota enters the NCAA Championships ranked 11th as a team on the apparatus but posted a season-best mark of 58.150 at the Big Ten Championships. Senior Mitchell Mays has been the top performer for the Gophers on rings and owns the team’s top four scores, including a season-high score of 15.100 at Oklahoma on March 15. Senior co-captains Steven Vuong and Sergei Dmitriev have posted team top-six rings performances as well.
VAULT: Vault has clearly been Minnesota’s strongest event during the 2008 campaign. The Gophers enter the NCAA Championships as college gymnastics’ No. 2 program on vault with a national-average score of 63.710. Minnesota posted a season-best score of 64.150 for the top score at the Big Ten Championships and boasts five gymnasts with top-25 national rankings. Senior Mitchell Mays is the nation’s top-ranked performer on vault and enters the meet as the favorite to capture the national title. He has topped 16 points on eight of 10 attempts, including six scores of 16.500 or better. Sophomore Andre Berry, who scored a 16.000 to reach the Big Ten event finals, is ranked No. 14 nationally, with sophomores Adam Reichow, a 2007 vault All-American checking in at No. 18. Sophomores Colin McGuire, ranked No. 23, and Cole Storer, No. 24, have also scored in the high 15s this season and should also produce counting scores.
PARALLEL BARS: The nation’s ninth-ranked parallel bars squad heading into the NCAA Championships, Minnesota posted its best score of the season in its regular-season finale vs. Illinois/Iowa with a team total of 58.600. Senior co-captain Sergei Dmitriev has scored 15.000 twice this season on p-bars and owns the Gophers’ top two scores on the event. Sophomore Aaron Fortunato has also been one of the team’s top performers on p-bars as has senior Mitchell Mays.
HIGH BAR: Minnesota ranks eighth in the nation on high bar, but hasn’t been at its best on the event since the early part of the season. The Gophers recorded their season-high score of 57.050 back on Jan. 26 vs. Calgary and have a national average of 56.360. Sophomore Cole Storer is ranked No. 9 nationally this week and finished third at the Big Ten Championships. Sophomore Colin McGuire has also been solid for Minnesota on h-bar and enters the championship ranked No. 24. Senior co-captains Steve Vuong and Sergei Dmitriev have topped 14 points this season on high bar and should also figure in the scoring for Minnesota.