As junior Shane Wiskus and sophomore Mike Moran prepared for the Winter Cup over the last several weeks, the Gophers men's gymnastics team needed a spark to replace the workload the pair carried.
That spark came from two freshmen who have made names for themselves in the recent weeks: Donte McKinney and Crew Bold.
"It feels good to know that we’re actually making an impact,” Bold said. “Like we’re kinda worth it. It makes us feel good, and makes you want to keep improving more.”
Improving is exactly what these two have been doing. The Gophers haven’t had their best lineup, as head coach Mike Burns puts it, this whole season, but McKinney and Bold have taken on a bigger role lately.
In the past two meets, both Bold and McKinney have tied for the team high on the high bars with a 14.100. Bold was the first to the feat on Feb. 1. Two weeks later, McKinney tied him. McKinney also ranks in the top-15 nationally in two events, vault and high bar, where he has a NCAA national qualifying average of 14.483 and 13.717, respectively.
“I think I’ve been getting more concentrated as the season's gone. My sets have been becoming ... easier than normal,” McKinney said. “I kind of started off the season a little rough, I’m not gonna lie. I started out with simple, watered down sets and then once I got comfortable I started upgrading and getting my confidence up."
Though Bold isn’t as highly ranked, he has stepped up his performance as of late. Against Washington, he set a new career-high on vault with a 14.150. In that meet he also set career highs on the floor, rings and parallel bars.
“A big part of [improving] is teammates. They’ve helped me get better, helped my motivation, pushed me, which is a big factor in all my gymnastics training,” Bold said. “Having my teammates tell me ‘Let’s go, let’s get it, you can do it.' That’s definitely what’s been helping me improve a lot."
Burns has seen both of these freshmen develop throughout the season and knows they will be crucial to the team's future success.
“The two of them together really are a huge one-two punch in the freshman class. Donte has been really starting to hit his stride really nicely. Crew is very talented in several events and is gonna be a big part in this push forward for the rest of the regular season,” he said.
Bold and McKinney have been able to feed off their recent success week to week, but the team had a bye week this past weekend. Burns doesn’t think that will affect the freshman's performance.
“Obviously a week off of competition takes you out of that cycle, but it’s also kind of a mental break,” Burns said. “By not competing I think it drives the hunger, so I’m really looking forward to how these two respond.”
The Gophers are back in competition on Saturday, Feb. 29 at Michigan.