The University of Minnesota has announced the 2011 women’s gymnastics competition schedule. The Golden Gophers will host five regular-season home meets at the Sports Pavilion during the season, plus the annual intrasquad exhibition meet. The highlight of the home competition season will be the Big Ten Championships, which will be held at the Sports Pavilion on Saturday, March 19.
The Big Ten Conference was one of the strongest in the nation last season, and boasted three teams that finished the 2010 season ranked among the top 16 in the nation, and six teams that finished last season ranked among the top 30 in the nation. Minnesota will face each of its Big Ten opponents on March 19, 2011, at the Big Ten Championship, which will be hosted by the University of Minnesota. The Gophers will also face three Big Ten opponents in dual meets during the regular season.
The Golden Gophers, who finished the 2010 season ranked No. 25 in the nation, will kick off the 2011 campaign with the annual intrasquad exhibition competition on New Year’s Day. The meet serves as a practice run at the beginning season to prepare the team for regular-season competition. The Golden Gophers begin the regular season on the road, facing Ohio State on January 8. The Buckeyes finished the 2010 season ranked No. 35.
Minnesota’s home season begins with Big Ten rival Iowa on Jan. 15. The Hawkeyes finished last as the No. 27 team in the nation. Next, the Golden Gophers will face another Big Ten opponent when they compete at Michigan State on January 22, a team that earned a final 2010 ranking of No. 29. Minnesota’s final competition in the month of January will be a home meet against Air Force on Jan. 29. Minnesota has not competed against the Falcons in regular-season action since 2005 when both Air Force and Minnesota competed at Nebraska. The Air Force team is coached by former Minnesota assistant coach Doug Day.
Moving into February, the Golden Gophers will travel to Illinois on Feb. 5. Illinois earned a 2010 national ranking of No. 16. On Feb. 12, the Gophers will host the annual Always Dreaming Best of Minnesota Meet. The Always Dreaming Best of Minnesota is a competition featuring all four of the collegiate women’s gymnastics teams in the state of Minnesota: Gustavus, Hamline, Winona State, and the Gophers. The Best of Minnesota is one of the best-attended competitions each season. The meet is named Always Dreaming in honor of former Minnesota athletics compliance director Frank Kara, and will serve as a fundraising and awareness campaign for cancer research.
Minnesota will remain at home for a second consecutive week, hosting Iowa on Feb. 20. The Cyclones finished just ahead of Minnesota in the final 2010 rankings, coming in No. 24. The meet against Iowa State will start at 2 p.m., a departure from the regular home meet start time (6 p.m.) in order to accommodate a doubleheader with the men’s gymnastics team, who will compete at 7 p.m. that evening. The men’s and women’s gymnastics teams will celebrate the 2011 Minnesota Gymnastics Hall of Fame induction at a banquet on Friday, Feb. 19.
On Friday, February 25, Minnesota will travel to compete at Call State Fullerton, and will move on to a meet at UCLA on Sunday, February 27. Cal State Fullerton is on the regular-season schedule for the Gophers for the first time since the 2002 season. UCLA won the 2010 NCAA Championship. Minnesota has the defending NCAA Champion on its regular-season schedule for the first time since 2004. The last time Minnesota faced the defending national champion in the regular season was also against UCLA, after the Bruins won the NCAA crown in 2003, and Minnesota hosted UCLA at the Sports Pavilion in 2004.
Following the tour of California, the Gophers will continue on the road with a meet at Iowa State on March 4. The Golden Gophers will then round out the 2011 regular season with a home meet against NC State on March 12. The last home meet of the season will be the Big Ten Championships, scheduled for March 19.
If the Golden Gophers finish the regular season among the top 36 teams in the national rankings, they will advance to an NCAA Regional Championship. The six schools hosting regional championships in 2011 are Alabama, Denver, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Oregon State. The top two teams from each regional championship will earn a berth in the 2011 NCAA Championship, which will be held in Cleveland, Ohio.