The Gopher men’s gymnastics team held their annual awards picnic on Sunday, May 3 and announced their team awards and next year’s team captains.
Starting off the awards, juniors Ali Aleiou and Thomas O’Brien were both named Most Improved Competitors. “Ali and Thomas really made great strides in their ability as competitors we could really count on this year,” said head coach Mike Burns. “This was Ali’s first year to make the lineup on a regular basis and he was extremely consistent on high bar which can be an event that lends itself to inconsistencies. He also competed on a regular basis on vault and did a great job, posting a season high of 15.65 in the meet with Nebraska.”
“Thomas had a phenomenal year as a junior after a year of multiple injuries as a sophomore last year,” said Burns. “He trained harder, got stronger, and built his confidence to a new level which paid off in a much more reliable competitor this year. It was a pleasure to see Thomas make such strides in his development as a solid competitor.”
The Most Improved Gymnast was awarded to sophomore Michael Paulus. “After a great summer of training last year, Michael made huge strides in skill development and in his ability to compete, posting a season high score of 14.55 on the parallel bars,” said Burns. “Michael really blossomed over the past 10 months and it showed in the gym and on the competition floor.” Paulus’s season was cut short with a season-ending shoulder injury in February that required surgery, but he took the same approach with his rehab as he did with his gymnastics skill development and is currently well ahead of the curve on his road to recovery.
Sophomore Travis Heaver was presented with the Coaches Appreciation Award. “This is one of our favorite awards to present every year and it is given to someone who always maintains a great positive outlook and brings a sense of gratitude to his position on our team,” said Burns. “Travis, like Michael Paulus, made great strides in his gymnastics skills from his freshman to sophomore year and was consistently in the mix to break into the lineup. He was always ready to go, and while he didn’t always get to compete this year, he was never unprepared and helped to push those above him to higher levels which in turn helped the entire team improve.”
Our Freshman of the Year Award was presented to Russell Dabritz. “The transition to college sports can be tough at times but Russell seemed to make the adjustment very smoothly and was a huge part of the success of our team this year,” said Burns. “Russell is a gymnast that not only had a great freshman year but I see great things in his future as a member of the Gopher gymnastics team. A hard worker, Russell is an elegant gymnast and makes many of his skills look effortless which is really the goal in our sport.” Russell was the Big Ten runner up on parallel bars this year, and to have results like that as a freshman is a great sign of future success.
Freshman DJ Repp was presented with the Outstanding Accomplishment Award for his efforts at the NCAA Championships. “DJ dealt with some inconsistencies this year but stuck to the plan and ended up as an All-American on the vault by virtue of his sixth-place finish with a great performance on his Kasamatsu with one and a half twists. DJ also made the finals on vault at Big Tens where he finished in fifth place so it was great to see him step up in two of the more important meets of the year.” DJ performed one of the more difficult vaults at the two championship meets and he was a big factor in the vault team setting a season-high score at the NCAA Championships.
Senior co-captain Kit Beikmann was the team’s other All-American at the 2009 NCAA Championships but he was presented with the Outstanding Career Award. “Kit is the kind of guy a coach loves to have on his team,” said Burns. “As a walk-on back in the fall of 2005, I never knew Kit would accomplish the things he accomplished.” As a sophomore he won the Big Ten title on pommel horse in front of a home crowd and became a member of the First-Team All Big Ten Team. He then went on to earn his first All-American citation at the 2007 NCAA Championships. “The next two years he finished up as runnerup on pommel horse at the Big Ten meet and earned his second All-American citation at home again in the 2009 NCAA Championships. Kit will go down as one of the greats of Gopher gymnastics!”
The Most Valuable Gymnast Award is the only award voted on by the entire team and this year it was presented to junior co-captain Aaron Fortunato. “Aaron also showed a marked improvement in his consistency on the competition floor this year and was able to earn First-Team All-Big Ten honors by virtue of his fifth-place finish in the all around. That was a big step for Aaron this year, and I feel like he moved into a new realm of his gymnastics career this year,” said Burns.
The Team Captains for the 2009 2010 season were also announced at the picnic. The captains were voted on by the team and the coaches, and juniors Aaron Fortunato, Colin McGuire, and Thomas O’Brien were announced to the team as their new leadership for the upcoming season.
Academic Excellence Awards
“We take academic success seriously in our program and this year we had great results in the classroom,” said Burns. “We created a First Team and Second Team for Academic Excellence Awards based on grade point average.”
(GPA above 3.50)
(GPA 3.0 - 3.49)