The Minnesota Golden Gophers came down to needing a great performance on their best event to leapfrog Denver to earn a berth into the NCAA Championship meet last Saturday. They got it and finished in second place in the Athens Regional and clinched one of eight spots in the NCAA Championship meet in Fort Worth, Texas in two weeks. It will be only Minnesota’s second ever berth into the NCAA Championship meet with the other time coming in 2016.
Minnesota finished first in their regional prelims group on Friday recording a score of 197.625 tied for the third highest in program history. They and Denver advanced to the region final on Saturday along with #1 Florida and North Carolina State.
The Gophers started their region final on the bars, and got off to a great start with a 49.325 to take the lead after the first rotation. Lexi Ramler led the way for the Gophers with a 9.95. Minnesota then moved to the vault and kept their great performance going with a score of 49.450 including a 9.95 from freshman Mya Hooten.
The Gophers nearly cost themselves a spot in the NCAA Finals on the floor however. The Gophers recorded just a 49.150 and needed to keep a 9.5 score from Emily Koch after the usually amazing Ona Loper fell. Minnesota fell into third place with just the final rotation left—but the Gophers on their best event the beam.
Minnesota did what they needed to do and iced down a spot with a team score of 49.500. The Gophers ended the beam with their veteran stars and it paid off as Tiarre Salles, Mary Korlin-Downs and Ramler finished their final three routings with a 9.95, and a pair of 9.90’s respectively. The Gophers team score of 197.425 was enough to jump the Pioneers and join Florida in qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
The Gophers will complete in the afternoon session of the NCAA Semifinals along with Florida, Michigan and Cal. The national semifinal is set for Friday, April 16 at Noon on ESPN2. The top two teams will advance to the NCAA Finals Saturday afternoon on ABC to compete for a NCAA Championship. All of Minnesota’s gymnasts will also be able to compete for individual NCAA Championships in the four events and the all-around competition. Their scores in the Friday semifinal will be what will determine the individual event and all-around champions.
Good luck and congrats to the Gophers!