The No. 25-ranked Minnesota women's gymnastics team ended its regular season the right way on Saturday, honoring four seniors on senior night with a season-best score of 195.625.
"Last night was really a wonderful event, it was everything you hope that your seniors would experience," Gophers co-head coach Meg Stephenson said.
Although the Gophers' top score this year was not enough to edge past No. 9-ranked Oklahoma, which tallied a 196.126, Minnesota continued to improve and should be near peak performance for the Big Ten Championships next weekend.
"Coming so close to beating a team in the top ten really confirmed what type of team we are," Stephenson said. "We are as good as we think we are."
The Gophers first rotation of the evening was the vault, and sophomore Alexis Russell sparked Minnesota with a season-best score of 9.850.
On the next rotation, junior Angela Walker scored a season-high 9.850 on the bars. Her score, along with solid performances of 9.800 by Russell and freshman Kendra Elm gave the Gophers their second-highest bars score of the season.
But it was the beam that buoyed Minnesota towards its best performance of the season, notching a season-high 49.225 by receiving a 9.800 or higher on all five counting scores.
Junior Carmelia Carabajal led the Gophers on the beam with a 9.875, helping Minnesota out-score the high-powered Sooners for its only event victory on the night.
Carabajal again tallied the high score for the Gophers on the floor, this time with a 9.850. The junior would also lead Minnesota in all-around competition, placing second overall by way of a 39.300 and tying her personal-best score.
Right behind Carabajal was Russell, who continued her late-season comeback from injury with a solid 39.100.
"Alexis Russell had a wonderful night, we were so excited for her," Stephenson said. "Anytime you score over 39 in the all around you are having a solid night."
Men score season best
Ending its regular season on a high note, the Minnesota men's gymnastics squad took second place in a tri-meet with Big Ten foes Illinois and Iowa and finished with its best team score of the season, 351.500.
Gophers head coach Mike Burns pointed to a high hit percentage and having no mistakes counting towards the total score as the main factors in what he called Minnesota's best performance of the season.
On floor exercise, Minnesota tallied a 60.000, the team's best floor score in the 2008 season. The top scorer for the Gophers was sophomore Cole Storer, who earned a 15.300 to tie his best score of the year and place second in the event.
After lower scores on the pommel horse and rings, The Gophers moved back into first place after four rotations with a solid performance on the vault.
No. 1 ranked vault performer and Gophers' senior Mitchell Mays was the winner, earning a 16.550. Storer was the runner up on vault, finishing second with a 15.950, his best vault score of the season. Mays and Storer led Minnesota to a team score of 64.100, a season high and the team's best event score of the meet.
Minnesota captured an event title on parallel bars as well, as senior Sergei Dmitriev tallied a 15.000 to match his best score of the year and tie for first place in the event.
Sophomore Aaron Fortunato placed second in the all-around with a total of 86.850, his best all-around score of the season by more than a point.
"We had a pretty solid meet all around, and attention to detail is getting better," Burns said. "But the season is not over yet."
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