An energized Gophers men’s gymnastics team used season-high scores on three events to beat Nebraska and Illinois-Chicago on Saturday night.
In front of an equally excited Sports Pavilion crowd, No. 6 Minnesota won all six events as a team and enjoyed a comfortable win.
Coach Mike Burns said the team increased its hit percentage this week and only had to count one fall on routines.
“I guess you can always ask for a better performance,” Burns said. “But at this time of the year, these guys are doing a wonderful job.”
Highlighting the Gophers’ win was the performance of Steve Jaciuk. The sophomore finished second on rings and parallel bars and won the high bar competition.
His stuck dismount on the high bar ended the night for Minnesota.
“Unbelievable finish to the meet,” Burns said.
Jaciuk said he lives for those types of moments rather than getting nervous. Having his teammates there with him made it most worthwhile, though.
“This place can get loud, but the only people I ever hear is my teammates,” Jaciuk said. “That’s what drove me to that exclamation point.”
Minnesota’s gymnasts showed their emotion early and often Saturday night, high-fiving and jumping around after stuck dismounts and landings.
Jaciuk said the environment mimicked that of the Big Ten championships, which will be held at the Sports Pavilion in early April.
The Gophers had their worst performance of the season on pommel horse.
Burns said the team had a few routines with falls, and tougher judging lowered the scores.
“Even though we scored a little lower, I think our routines were actually a little bit better,” Burns said.
Ellis Mannon, who won the event Saturday, said the team needs to spend more time in practice working on pommel horse.
“If you hit the routines in practice, it’ll happen in the meets,” he said.
Burns said Mannon, who competed in five events Saturday, is a workhorse for the team. Mannon will compete in the Winter Cup next weekend in Las Vegas.
Adam Kern finished second on floor and tied for first with teammate Adam LaFleur on vault. Minnesota swept the top-three spots on rings and had three of the top-four scores on parallel bars.
Women beat Michigan State
The Gophers women’s team continued its hot start this season with a win against Michigan State on Friday night in East Lansing, Mich.
Despite losing Jenny Covers, a dependable all-around performer who fell during warm-ups, No. 10 Minnesota outscored the Spartans on every event to win 194.325-192.625. Individuals won three of the four events for the Gophers.
Coach Meg Stephenson said Covers wasn’t injured badly but was held on a precautionary measure. Covers is expected to be back in the lineup this weekend.
Stephenson said another obstacle Friday was the gymnasium’s temperature. Minnesota’s athletes used hand warmers and wore sweatshirts under their warm-up clothes to stay warm and keep loose, and fans attending the meet kept bundled up.
“Nobody took their coat off,” she said. “It was like being at a hockey game.”
Janell Campbell and Justine Cherwink filled in for the absent Covers, though the Gophers only used five gymnasts instead of six on vault.
Stephenson said she was impressed by the poise of three veterans: Shannon Golich, Kayla Slechta and Kylie Schermann.
“They are just steady, consistent performers,” Stephenson said. “It just shows the confidence and competitiveness in those three.”
Slechta, the nation’s top vault-scorer, finished second on vault. She also finished second on floor and fifth on bars.
Golich won the balance beam competition with a 9.85. The senior also finished tied for eighth on vault.
Schermann won the floor exercise and finished fourth on beam and fifth on vault.
Slechta said she and her teammates had to adjust their mentalities to overcome challenges.
“Not everything is going to be perfect when you go to a competition or go to an arena,” she said.
Golich said the team demonstrated its ability to perform under pressure.
“We’re able to step up individually,” she said. “It’s very comfortable, and it’s very positive having such a strong team.”
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