Minnesota’s men’s gymnastics team beat conference newcomer Nebraska, but the women fell Saturday to the Huskers.
The men faced off first. No. 6 Minnesota scored a season-high 345.6 points to No. 8 Nebraska’s 339.4. Both teams improved their scores of 340 and 336.5, respectively, from their last meeting a week ago with the Hawkeyes in Iowa City, Iowa.
“A lot of times in the past years we’ve had trouble finishing. [We’d] start out strong and not finish strong,” head coach Mike Burns said. “So I’m really happy where they’re at now in terms of their fitness level to be able to get through the meet consistently.”
The Gophers won four of the six apparatuses and swept the top-three spots on still rings and high bar. All the top scores on high bar belonged to freshmen.
“Our freshman class is doing two things: They’re obviously hitting their sets and scoring well, but what they’re doing is they’re helping to bolster the older guys,” Burns said. “A lot of times you get freshmen in, and you’re just hoping to get through and handle it, but they look like they’re seasoned veterans now.”
Steve Jaciuk led his fellow freshmen on the event with a score of 14.6. Kyle Banks (14.4) and Spencer Smith (14.2) followed. All scores were personal records.
“We know we’re looked upon as the little freshmen who aren’t going to really do much, but we all band together to contribute because we are the future of this program, and we know what’s at stake,” Jaciuk said. “What we bring to this team is a lot of what were this team’s weaknesses, so we make the team whole.”
The sweep on rings came courtesy of Russell Dabritz, Zack Chase and Travis Heaver. Dabritz also won parallel bars. Harris Coleman took floor exercise.
DJ Repp earned the meet MVP award — his first outstanding performance award in his career. The senior was the only all-around competitor and scored an 82.2 in one of the final home meets of the season.
“It took me four years to win it, so to finally get it is pretty awesome,” Repp said. “It’s always fun to win against Nebraska, our arch-nemesis.”
Women narrowly edged
The women bested their season’s high score set just last week but could not overtake the Huskers.
No. 9 Nebraska posted 196.85 points to No. 26 Minnesota’s 196.15. The Gophers managed one first-place finish and three other top-three finishes. Nebraska swept the podium on vault.
“On vault they tried a little too hard,” head coach Meg Stephenson said. “It’s a big meet for us on the Big Ten Network, and Nebraska is an awesome team. Once we got to bars, they settled down a little bit more and as the meet progressed.”
Senior Janell Campbell was the sole first-place finisher for Minnesota after tying Nebraska’s Jessie DeZiel’s 9.9 on floor exercise.
“We’ve been putting up big scores consistently as the season has gone on, which is really good to see,” Campbell said. “By the end of this season, we are going to be more than golden.”
Campbell battled a foot injury early in the season but said she is doing well.
Justine Cherwink competed for the first time this season on uneven parallel bars after returning from an Achilles injury. Although it was not a complete routine without a full mount and dismount, it was a head start to her return to the lineup, Stephenson said.
Several ties composed the Gophers highest finishes. Kayla Slechta and Dusti Russell placed third on floor. Russell tied with Nebraska’s Emily Wong for second on balance beam. Lucy Ennis also tied with DeZiel for third on bars.
The men’s and women’s teams are both away next week. The women head south to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes. The men return to Illinois to take on familiar rival University of Illinois-Chicago.
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