Nearly one year ago on Feb. 16, Gophers gymnast Ivy Lu achieved perfection. Lu wrote her name in the Gophers' record book that day as the second gymnast in program history to hit a perfect score on the balance beam.
Sophomore Shane Wiskus led the way for the Gophers, competing in four events: pommel horse, vault, parallel bars and high bar. Wiskus notched three career-highs in vault (14.800), parallel bars (14.800) and high bar (14.200), which earned him first place in each event. He also placed third in the pommel horse, scoring 13.500 for his best performance on the event since the first meet.
The Gophers shooting woes — especially from 3-point range — continued in Saturday's loss to No. 9 Michigan State.
Following a second place finish at the NCAA Championships last season, the Minnesota roster went through a massive overhaul. Ten seniors departed the team, including team captains Joel Gagnon and Alex Wittenberg, making way for a youth movement as nine freshman were added to this season's team.
The team began Big Ten competition last week on Saturday, Jan. 26 on the road against Penn State and narrowly edged the Nittany Lions 196.925-196.775. The Gophers recorded season-highs in three events: the vault, bars and beam. The team's beam score of 49.375 put them among the top women's teams in Gophers history in the event, placing fourth in program history.
At halftime, Illinois had a two-point lead on Minnesota's home court. The Gophers looked like they might suffer another loss to one of the Big Ten's worst teams, but two runs in the second half changed the home team's momentum.
Ona Loper's freshman year was more than anyone expected from the young gymnast. The Bluffton, South Carolina native was in the midst of a fantastic first few months, leading the team in floor exercise and vault scoring. She finished on the podium for both events four times each, including placing first in vault twice and on floor once.
The Gophers came into Saturday hoping for revenge against the Wolverines, who finished one place better than them at last week's Windy City Invitational. Despite a season-high 408.300 score, the Gophers were unable to top Michigan, which scored 413.150.
Minnesota didn't follow up Friday's offensive bonanza with a similar performance Saturday. The Gophers lost to the Badgers 4-3 to split the weekend series.
Last season, the Gophers men's gymnastics team reached their ultimate goal. The team qualified for the NCAA championships after a strong regular season and ultimately came in second overall — the best finish for the Gophers since 1990.