Hanna Nordquist spent the last month of her sophomore season unable to compete due to illness. She worked on her balance beam routine just three times before competing in front of a Sports Pavilion crowd at the Big Ten meet, trying to earn a spot at the NCAA meet.
The Gophers men’s golf team ended its fall season on a sour note with three of its last four tournaments ending in eighth-place finishes or worse. But with the way the team has played this spring, it seems the flowers aren’t the only things starting to blossom. “When we won at Seton Hall [in October], that win has really propelled us to thinking more like winners,” said head coach John Carlson. “I’ve got a bunch of really confident guys right now.”
Ellis Mannon left little doubt as he dismounted the pommel horse Saturday night. His 15.425 score illuminated the scoreboard inside the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the junior gymnast knew he’d sealed the NCAA title. “It was a pretty great feeling,” Mannon said. “That’s what I trained for this whole year, my whole career, so to finally get there is pretty rewarding.”
Zack Chase’s walk-up song doesn’t have a heavy beat, loud guitar riffs or lyrics about overcoming struggles. Gophers fans know the senior gymnast is ready to perform when Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” plays over the loud speakers of the Sports Pavilion. “It’s always kind of funny to play it and see people’s reactions,” Chase said. Though Chase’s song selection provides its fair share of quizzical looks, there’s no questioning the senior’s talent when he starts his routine.
On the biggest stage of the season, the Gophers women’s gymnastics team fell just short in its attempt to reach the NCAA championships. Minnesota couldn’t match performances from Oklahoma and Illinois on Saturday as it finished third at the regional meet, one spot short of advancing as a team. “We gave it 100 percent effort, and we came up a little bit short,” head coach Meg Stephenson said. Though the team failed to advance, sophomores Lindsay Mable and Hanna Nordquist both qualified for the individual portion of the NCAA meet.
Gophers head men’s swimming coach Dennis Dale won’t return to the program next year, the University announced in a release Wednesday morning. University associate athletics director for strategic communications Chris Werle told the Minnesota Daily that Dale’s contract expired and the University decided not to renew it. Dale arrived on campus in 1985 to coach a team that hadn’t placed higher than fourth in the Big Ten in more than 20 years.
As junior Cierra Tomson went down with a back injury moments before her routine at the Big Ten championships, the women’s gymnastics team was thrust into a season-defining moment. Minnesota needed to replace four routines before the start of the meet. Some teams might have crumpled, but the two gymnasts who replaced Tomson performed admirably, helping the Gophers to finish third in the team standings.
Minnesota’s men’s swimming and diving team produced some of its best performances of the year at the NCAA meet over the weekend, but it regressed from last year’s 18th-place finish and placed 22nd overall. “They swam and dove great,” head coach Kelly Kremer said. “We really got some very tough breaks at almost every turn. And at the end of the day, the scoreboard doesn’t reflect what a great job these men did.” Minnesota boasted seven swimmers in total who garnered All-America honors, but it wasn’t enough.
When the Gophers missed their first routine Friday night, perhaps it was a sign the Big Ten meet wouldn’t go in their favor. Minnesota struggled to establish any semblance of momentum until the second part of the competition, and by then, the hole was too deep. The Gophers placed a disappointing fifth at the Big Ten championships, their worst finish of the season. “It was a bit of a struggle,” head coach Mike Burns said. “That outcome wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for.”
Since his sophomore year ended, junior Ellis Mannon hasn’t been able to clinch the top spot. Mannon took second on the pommel horse at the 2013 Big Ten meet, the 2013 NCAA meet and the 2014 Winter Cup. And even though he put up a big score of 15.95 on the apparatus at the 2014 Windy City Invite, he again fell just short of a title.
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