The Minnesota Gophers will complete in the NCAA Finals for the second consecutive season and for the sixth time in program history on Thursday. #8 ranked Minnesota will compete in the team semifinals on Thursday afternoon against #1 Oklahoma, #4 Utah and #5 Alabama with just the top two teams advancing to the team finals on Saturday afternoon. Thursday’s scores are also what will determine the individual event NCAA Champions, and the Individual All-Around Champion.
Minnesota will look to improve on their performance a season ago where they finished fourth in their semifinal and 8th overall in the team competition with a score of 197.1875. That score was the highest the Gophers had ever scored at a NCAA Championships. Minnesota will most likely need one of the best performances in school history to advance as they have already recorded top ten scores in school history but lost meets to both Oklahoma and Utah this season. The Gophers average score this season has been a 197.327 which trails the averages of their three opponents—Oklahoma with a 197.882, Utah with a 197.679, and Alabama with a 197.538. If the Gophers are going to advance, they will need to be nearly perfect on their best events—floor exercise and vault and really improve their balance beam score where their average is nearly 0.400 points les that their competitors averages.
While the team competition may be a struggle, the Gophers have at least three athletes who could compete for an individua NCAA Championship. Fifth year seniors Lexy Ramler and Ona Loper will be competing for the maroon and gold most likely for the final time ,and it would be amazing to see one of them go out on top.
Loper has two perfect 10’s on the vault this season and recorded pair of 9.95’s in the Normal regional semifinals and finals. Her 9.963 earned her a third place National Championship finish last season. She also scored39.638 in the All-Around to finish in fourth place a season ago. She would love to improve on that Thursday.
Lexy Ramler is one of the nation’s best on the balance beam and uneven bars. The reigning AAI award winner she has one perfect 10 on the beam this season and three for her career. She holds the Gophers All-Around record with a 39.825 and if she records that has a chance to win a National Championship.
Sophomore Mya Hooten has been amazing on the floor exercise all season long. She had three perfect 10’s on the year and recorded a near perfect 9.975 in the Norman Region Final the last time out. She easily could do that again Thursday and bring home a title to Minneapolis.
Maddie Quarles could be a dark horse on the vault as well. She earned a 2nd team All-American nod at the NCAA Championships a year ago and hit her best score of the season and career high with a 9.975 in the final of the Normal Region. If she can do that again, that’s potentially title worthy.
In any case, the Gophers will be fin to watch as they try to complete and bring home some history back to Minneapolis. Their semifinal group will begin at Noon and will air live on ESPN2 and stream on WatchESPN. The second semifinal featuring #2 Florida, #3 Michigan, #6 Auburn and #8 Missouri will begin at 5 PM. Good luck to the Gophers in Texas!