Every member of Russell Dabritz’s immediate family has competed in gymnastics at some point in his or her life.
Two happen to be competing this weekend — albeit 1,200 miles apart.
Russell Dabritz will compete April 6-7 in Iowa City, Iowa, at the Big Ten championships for Minnesota’s men’s team. His younger sister, Georgia Dabritz, will stay in Utah to host the women’s NCAA Salt Lake Regional on April 7.
Joining Utah at the regional are Nebraska, Iowa State, Arizona State, San Jose State and the Minnesota women’s team.
This left Russell Dabritz in an interesting position of choosing between blood and maroon and gold.
“I have Gopher pride, but I definitely would root for my sister overall,” Russell said.
However, that doesn’t mean he’s giving away any of Minnesota’s secrets.
“He’s kind of keeping his mouth shut,” Georgia Dabritz said.
She’s a freshman at Utah, but she hasn’t looked it.
She earned the Pac-12 conference’s Freshman of the Year honors for the regular season as well as first-team honors for floor exercise.
Although Utah came in a close second to UCLA at the Pac-12 championships, Georgia Dabritz became the first Pac-12 champion for Utah on uneven parallel bars.
“She’s been incredible,” Utah’s co-head coach Greg Marsden said. “You really never know quite what to expect from a freshman. … But her transition has been as smooth as it can be.”
Marsden said he attributes much of Georgia Dabritz’s success to her family. Both of her parents and her older sister competed in their youth.
Their mother, who coached Georgia Dabritz until she was 12, even owns a gym, Ace Gymnastics, in the family’s home state of Massachusetts.
“They’ve been, in my perspective, a perfect gymnastics family,” Marsden said. “They are very supportive of their daughter whether she has a good night or a poor night and at the same time did not try to interfere with what’s going on between her and her team and her coaching staff.”
From a recruiting perspective, it wasn’t quite perfect to Marsden, who knew that Russell Dabritz competed for Minnesota while he was recruiting Georgia Dabritz.
“I was very concerned that that was going to give Minnesota a recruiting advantage,” Marsden said.
The siblings, however, didn’t see it that way.
“Ever since we were little, we were competing together, and we were always with each other in the gym. It was kind of a refreshing thing to be in separate places,” Georgia Dabritz said.
Her brother agreed that having his freshman sister around during his senior year would be “weird.”
The Utah-Minnesota connection does not end with the Dabritzes.
Minnesota head women’s coach Meg Stephenson and her husband Jim Stephenson, a volunteer assistant coach, both coached with Marsden at Utah for four years. Utah won two national titles in the Stephensons’ era.
“We get along great. We made fast friends, and we’re still friends to this day,” Meg Stephenson said. “We had a wonderful time.”
Meg Stephenson said her familiarity with Utah and its facility would help Minnesota at regionals.
Minnesota’s women’s team is the No. 3 seed at regionals and No. 17 nationally. It is seeded behind No. 5 Nebraska and No. 8 Utah.
The Gophers will look to improve its fourth-place tie from last year that advanced only one gymnast, Kayla Slechta, to nationals.
The real challenge for the Dabritz family, though, was deciding which meet to attend this weekend.
Georgia Dabritz’s mom and sister will travel to Utah to watch regionals while Russell Dabritz’s father will drive to Iowa for the conference championships.
At last year’s Big Ten championships, Russell Dabritz placed second on the parallel bars, and Minnesota finished fifth overall.
“As a team we are definitely more prepared,” Russell Dabritz said. “Our goal is to make top-three, and I think we can absolutely do that, no problem, as long as we don’t have a meltdown or something.”
“Personally, I’d love to improve on [parallel] bars [and] get first.”
Minnesota head men’s coach Mike Burns said this year has been one of Russell Dabritz’s best.
As for the team competition, Burns predicts a close contest.
“The Big Ten [championships] is such a tough competition, and everybody is so tight and close,” Burns said. “It could be less than a point difference between three or four teams.”
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