The Gophers' women's gymnastics team knew it was going to be a tough road to the NCAA Championships. New rule changes saw the championship field drop from 12 to eight and with the Gophers ranking No. 11 in the country, they were right on the bubble.
Minnesota began the weekend on Friday at the NCAA Regional in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The team finished the night in second place behind Utah, advancing to the Super Regional the next day.
Ona Loper grabbed the only solo event title of the night for Minnesota with a career-high 9.950. Lexy Ramler, Ivy Lu and three other gymnasts earned a share of the uneven parallel bars title with a 9.900.
On the second night of competition the Gophers took on Utah, LSU and Auburn, needing a second-place finish or higher to qualify for the NCAA Championships in Fort Worth on April 19-21. The Gophers fell just short of their goal coming in third with a score of 196.900, behind LSU and Utah.
Lu found the top of the podium on the uneven parallel bars for the second straight night with a 9.975 score. Ramler finished third on the event, and came in second place on beam and fourth in the all-around.
"I'm just so proud of the team tonight," head coach Jenny Hansen told Gopher Sports. "They really took the energy and the environment, and performed at such a high level. I know they had a great time doing it with their team tonight. It was a really fun night and I'm just so proud of them and their season."
Ramler finished as the top-scoring Gophers gymnast, advancing to the NCAA Championships thanks to her fourth-place finish. She is the only Minnesota gymnast to qualify for the second consecutive year.
"I'm super proud of this team and we had an amazing season," Ramler told Gopher Sports after tonight's competition. "Having the experience from last year, I'm a little bit more confident going into [NCAA Championships], but I'm extremely excited to represent Minnesota in this way."
Men finish fifth at Big Ten Championships
For the second year in a row, the Gophers' men's gymnastics team finished fifth at the Big Ten Championships.
"When you have a competition like this, it's really easy to focus on the mistakes, but there were a lot of really good things that we did. As a complete team effort, it just came up a little short tonight," head coach Mike Burns told Gopher Sports. "Not the finish we'd hoped, but love this group of guys, they're a hard-working bunch and they fought throughout, and you've got to appreciate that."
While the team didn't advance, six individuals qualified for the second day of competition after a strong first day.
Co-Big Ten Gymnast of the Year Shane Wiskus qualified for the parallel bars, vault and the floor events. Senior Justin Karstadt qualified on the pommel horse.
The freshman gymnasts handled the heightened pressure well, as four advanced to the second day. David Pochinka advanced on the pommel horse and high bar. Mike Moran qualified for floor and vault. Ben Eyles joined Moran and Wiskus, qualifying for vault and Eric Nakamura rounded out the qualifiers with a strong floor performance.
Wiskus claimed the only podium finish among the qualified Gophers gymnasts, finishing in third on the parallel bars. Eyles, Karstadt, and last-minute addition Timmy Kutyla all finished in the top six in their respective events.
Wiskus and Karstadt were honored as first-team All-Big Ten for their performances. It is the second time Wiskus has been given this honor and third for Karstadt.
The Gophers now have their eyes set on the NCAA Championships in Champaign, Illinois April 19-21, where they will look to repeat their second-place finish of last year.