In the third of our series previews, we look at the balance beam performers today.
As usual, the balance beam will be one of the strongest events for the Gophers. With all but one beam competitor from last season’s line up returning for the 2011 season and several strong newcomers added to the beam corp, head Coach Meg Stephenson feels that balance beam will be the toughest of the four events to earn a spot in the line up.
“It’s very competitive to earn a spot in the beam line up,” said Stephenson. “We have many gymnasts who are capable of scoring 9.8 or higher on a consistent basis, with several who have a realistic goal of earning a 10.0 on beam this season. It’s really exciting to have athletes who have their eyes set on that kind of goal.”
The returning performers have upgraded and perfected their routines. Kristin Furukawa was the anchor of the beam line up last season, and will be a bog contributor again in 2011. Ana Balboa, also a top beam performer in 2010, comes back with a stronger routine. Kendra Elm and Lucy Ennis each have a new acro series in their routine, while Briana Jones has a new dismount. “Many of the upper class gymnasts spent part of the off season recovering from injuries and were not able to train full out,” said Stephenson. “Now, it’s really fun to see them coming back not only to the level they were at last season, but coming back with improvements.”
Among the newcomers, Kayla Slechta and Dusti Russell are strong beam performers and are gymnasts to watch. Megan Alvarez and Alex Feeken also have the potential to contribute in their first season with the Gophers.
In an event where mental toughness can be as important as physical abilities, Coach Stephenson feels that her team is well prepared in both the mental and physical aspects of the event. “Mental training is something that is new to many of the freshmen, but they’ve been very receptive to our weekly mental training program. They have bought into the importance of the mental training very early and they have already seen how it can help them have better results. The strength and success of our senior beam competitors has helped show the newcomers how mental training can assist in their performances.”
Check back tomorrow for a look at the floor exercise competitors.