After a challenging 2010 season, the No. 25 Minnesota women’s gymnastics team’s season came to a close Saturday after a close fourth-place finish (195.0) in the NCAA Columbia Regional Championship.
The host, No. 15 Missouri, took first place with a final score of 196.5. No. 5 Georgia and No. 8 Oregon State tied for second, ending with 196.275 points. Oregon State edged the Bulldogs with a complicated tiebreaker, so the Beavers and the Tigers will advance to the national meet.
Despite the Gophers’ finish at regionals, head coach Meg Stephenson said she is proud of her team.
“I think we performed really well,” she said. “We really competed consistenly with our top scores this year, [and] we did not have to count a fall.”
Stephenson said her only disappointment was that junior captain Kristin Furukawa was unable to compete due to illness.
After a first-rotation bye, the Gophers came out on the uneven bars in the second rotation and scored a 48.8. Senior Alexis Russell led Minnesota in the event with a score of 9.825, which tied her for fifth place overall. Junior Kendra Elm earned a 9.775 and freshman Janell Campbell, who had not competed on the bars in two meets, scored 9.75 points. All five of the scores that Minnesota counted toward its final bar score were at least 9.7, with junior Yuri Nagai and sophomore Lucy Ennis each earning a 9.725.
In the third rotation, the Gophers competed on the balance beam and earned 48.7 points. Russell was the top scorer for Minnesota on the event, finishing with a 9.775, which put her in 12th place. Sophomore Amber Hammerschmidt and freshman Shannon Golich each attained 9.75 points. Elm and junior Ana Balboa scored a 9.725 and 9.7, respectively, to give the Gophers scores above 9.7, again, to add to their final beam score.
Minnesota had another bye in the fourth rotation and came out on floor exercise for the fifth rotation earning 48.875 points, the Gophers’ best event score at the regionals. Russell took Minnesota’s top score on floor, earning 9.825 points and another 12th place finish for the senior. Campbell scored 9.8 points, and Golich, Hammerschmidt, Balboa and Elm all scored 9.75.
The Gophers were on the vault for the final rotation. Elm was Minnesota’s top scorer in the event, finishing with 9.8 points and a tie for 13th place. Golich and Ennis both scored a 9.75. Russell and freshman Jasmine Brown earned 9.675 and 9.65 points, respectively, to mark the only points lower than 9.7 to the Gophers final score of the night.
Russell, who qualified for the national individual competition, finished with 39.10 points in the all-around, which was good for fifth. Elm came in eighth in the all-around, earning a 39.05.
Russell said she’s been working really hard all season and was determined to make it to nationals but hoped to make it with her team.
“If you focus on yourself, it’ll help the team, [but] you don’t want to be too individualized,” Russell said. “I feel extremely honored [to be going to nationals]. This is everything I’ve dreamed of.”
Though the rest of the team’s season is over, Minnesota put up an impressive score in its attempt to keep the year going.
“We peaked at the right time, at Big Tens and regionals,” Stephenson said. “We all felt just wonderful leaving the event.”
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