March 24, 2012
Despite being selected to finish seventh in the preseason, the University of Minnesota women's gymnastics team proved the Big Ten Conference wrong by claiming third place at the Big Ten Championships on Saturday night in Iowa City, Iowa. The Golden Gophers posted a team score of 195.950 while Nebraska, who is in their first year in the league, snagged the team crown with a 197.100. Ohio State edged the Maroon and Gold for second with a 196.225.
Senior Amber Hammerschmidt earned All-Championship Team honors for her third-place finish on beam. The Rosemount, Minn. native tallied a career-best score on the apparatus by earning a 9.850.
Minnesota's third-place finish is the team's best at the Big Ten Championships since 2006 when they won the title.
"We did such a great job tonight, and we definitely performed as a team," said head coach Meg Stephenson. "The girls came out and performed at a high level depsite having the pressure of it being a big meet and having it live on television. I amjust really proud on how they handled themselves."
The No. 16-ranked Gophers started off the meet on floor exercise, which has been their strength all season. They continued to excel in the event as they had five gymnasts tally over a 9.800 to achieve a team score of 49.150. Junior Janell Campbell guided the Gophers with a 9.875 while Dusti Russell followed with a 9.850. Campbell's score was good enough to tie for fourth.
Minnesota continued to perform at a high level as they notched a career-best score of 49.300 on vault. All six of the Maroon and Gold gymnasts earned a 9.800 or higher on the apparatus with sophomore Kayla Slechta heading the charge with a season-best score of 9.900, which tied for sixth place. Rusell, Cierra Tomson, Shannon Golich and Jenny Covers each tied for the second-highest score on the team with a 9.850.
After the second rotation, the Golden Gophers, who entered the meet as the fourth seed, led at the halfway point with a score of 98.450. Nebraska sat in a close second with a 98.275 while Penn State and Ohio State rounded out the session with a 98.025 and 97.875.
"We were on a high after the first two rotations and seeing that we were in the lead, but we all knew that we had two more events to perform on before all was said and done."
In the third rotation, the Maroon and Gold moved to their weakest event of the season, uneven bars. Minnesota would put together a quality set as they posted a 48.725. Senior Lucy Ennis was the Gophers' top scorer with a 9.800. Tomson and Russell were the next highest scorers with scores of 9.750.
The Golden Gophers closed out the meet with a beam group that earned a 48.750. Hammerschmidt tallied a career-best score on the apparatus with a 9.850 while she also posted the top individual score for Minnesota. Golich had the next best Gopher score, which was a 9.775.
Stephenson applauded all the Gopher fans that made the trip down to Iowa City, Iowa for helping the team push through.
"We had from 50-100 fans at the meet, which was awesome to have. They really made a difference by cheering on the team and supporting out girls. It was great to have so many people there supporting us on such as big stage."
With the Big Ten Championships behind them, Minnesota turns its focus to NCAA Regionals. The Gophers will find out Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. on which of six sites they will be visiting. The Maroon and Gold will be 1-of-32 teams to advance to Regionals.
The Gophers are hosting a Selection Show at the Sports Pavilion Monday afternoon from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Refreshments will be provided to begin the event followed by the viewing of which Regional the team will be assigned to. Stephenson is slated to speak following the selections process.