Nov. 11, 2011
By Kim Conley
Minnesota Athletic Communications Assistant
The Golden Gopher men's gymnastics team welcomes seven new faces this year. The large group of freshmen comprises almost one-third of the team. The Gophers lost only four routines from the 2011 NCAA Championships, but they are bringing in about 25 routines with this group of freshmen.
"While every freshman class is different, the fact that there is such a large group gives them an advantage over a smaller class," head coach Mike Burns said. "They can definitely consider themselves a force on the team, due to their numbers and be secure in the knowledge that the team will be counting on some of them to step up and put points on the scoreboard."
Being counted on so heavily might be nerve-wracking for some. But this group seems up to the challenge. They have high hopes for the team in the upcoming season.
"I am very excited about the 2012 season," freshman Sean Bauer said. "We have a lot of young talent and great leadership from our upperclassmen, so I think we could surprise a lot of teams."
Having such a young group brings a lot of excitement to the team. While the upperclassmen have endured the training and competition of numerous NCAA seasons, the freshmen are eager for this experience.
Most of the youngsters are still adjusting to college life and the demands of being a collegiate student-athlete. But the group appears to be enjoying the transition. But they admit it has its challenges.
"I love the freedom of being in college," said freshmen Steve Jaciuk. "The most difficult thing for me is balancing being a Division I athlete and the academic responsibilities of being a student along with trying to have a social life."
These adjustments include a tougher, more physical training schedule than many are accustomed to. The team works out for several hours most days of the week. Coach Burns believes his young group is handling it well so far.
"Training has been a lot more intense than it was in club," freshman Jack Metcalf said. "The workouts have a faster pace and we're putting in more hours every week, not to mention we're each fighting for a spot in the lineup, whereas in high school everyone got to compete."
Freshman Spencer Smith enjoys the practices and the competitive atmosphere.
"I find myself more motivated to work harder and get better," Smith said. "Being here has definitely had a positive impact on my gymnastics."
The team continues to train for the competition season which begins Jan. 14 at the Windy City Invitational in Chicago.
"What we do now in preseason training will determine how successful we will be at the end of the year in the Big Ten and NCAA Championship meets," Burns said. "We continue to push hard to be as competitive as we can this year."