The 17th-ranked Golden Gopher women’s gymnastics team placed fourth with a score of 196.000 at the 2009 Big Ten Championship, led by all around and balance beam champion Carmelina Carabajal.
Carabajal scored a career-best 39.50 to win the all around crown, becoming the first all around champion for Minnesota since Marie Roethlisberger won the title in 1989. With her score of 39.50, she now ranks third among the top all around performer in Minnesota history. Her all around title is the sixth in Minnesota history, and the first by a Gopher senior. The team captain from Albuquerque, N.M., also won a Big Ten title on the balance beam, where she earned a 9.90. She is the first Golden Gopher gymnast in 20 years to win multiple conference championships in the same season.
The Gophers’ first event of the competition was floor exercise, where the team earned a 48.825, the lowest event score of the meet for Minnesota. Carabajal was the top scorer for the Gophers, earning a 9.90 to tie for fifth place overall. Junior Alexis Russell was the second-highest scorer for Minnesota, earning a 9.875. Freshman Lucy Ennis had the third-best score for the team with a 9.70. Sophomores Kendra Elm and Yuri Nagai each earned marks of 9.675 to count toward the team score.
Minnesota moved to the vault, where they had their strongest performance of the season, compiling a team score of 49.075. Once again, Carabajal was the top scorer for the Gophers. She scored 9.875 to lead her team and place in a tie for sixth place. Sophomore Jamie Bullock was also in the top 10 on vault, tying for ninth place with a career-best score of 9.85. Alexis Russell earned a 9.825, and Kendra Elm had a 9.775, her personal-best vault score. Rounding out the scores for Minnesota were a pair of 9.75 marks, earned by Lucy Ennis and Yuri Nagai.
The Gophers competed on uneven bars next, and matched their team score from the previous rotation, earning a 49.075 on bars. Alexis Russell was the top performer for the team, matching her personal-best score with a 9.90. Russell tied for second place in the event. Sophomore Kristin Furukawa also placed among the top 10 on bars, tying for sixth place overall with a mark of 9.85. Carmelina Carabajal earned her best bars score of the season with a 9.825. Also with performances counting toward the team score were Kendra Elm (9.775) and Lucy Ennis (9.725).
Minnesota finished the competition on balance beam, and event that has been a strength for the team throughout the season. The team tallied a score of 49.025, led by Carmelina Carabajal’s winning performance. Carabajal scored a 9.90 to win the sixth beam title in Minnesota history and the first since Cathy Keyser won on beam in 1998. Jamie Bullock and Alexis Russell were also in the top five on beam, as each tied for fifth place with scores of 9.85. Ana Balboa’s score of 9.725 and Kristin Furukawa’s 9.7 also counted toward the team total on beam.
Both Carmelina Carabajal and Alexis Russell were named first-team All-Big Ten honorees, and both finished in the top four in the all around at the conference championship. Carabajal took first place in the all around (39.50), while Russell was fourth, matching her personal best all around score with a 39.45.
Minnesota’s team total of 196.00 is the fourth-best score for the Gophers at a conference championship meet, and is the second score of 196.00 or better this season. Michigan won the meet with a 197.075, while host Illinois was the runner up with a 196.75. Penn State rounded out the top three with a 196.525.
The Gophers will await word on NCAA Regional Championship selections and site assignments, and will compete at a regional meet on Saturday, April 4.