Twisting Towards Success
Dec. 25, 2008
By Larry Watts
Minnesota's Kit Beikmann is one of the top pommel horse performers in the nation.
Majoring in environmental science and policy management, the senior from Brighton, Colo. who is a CGA All-America Scholar Athlete and Academic All-Big honoree, sees himself in the field of meteorology. Specifically, he would like to chase tornadoes and hurricanes.
So does it come as a surprise that "Twister" is at the top of his movie list?
"There's a danger to that (chasing twisters) that's really appealing to me," he says. "Weather is so uncontrollable and I really like that."
But before he starts studying the weather map and begins chasing Mother Nature's mysteries, Beikmann will have to confine his twisters to the gymnastics arena. And that's exactly where he has a more immediate vision.
"I see myself standing at the top of the awards podium, wearing that 'Block M' singlet, at the NCAA Championships," he says. "I've been there three times and I can't think of a better way to end my collegiate career than winning the pommel horse title when we host the Championships (at Mariucci Arena April 16-18)."
Wearing Minnesota's old "Block M" singlet has become custom for Beikmann whenever he advances to the second day of a major meet.
"I do that out of respect for our alumni," he says. "They're the ones who have invested so much into this program."
Earning the gold also carries a special significance at the University of Minnesota. The Golden Gophers honor their national champions from each decade on banners hanging from the rafters. Clay Strother, who was the pommel horse and floor exercise champion in both 2001 and '02, is the lone name etched on the banner from this decade.
"This is the last year of the decade and there's room for one more name on that banner," Beikmann says. "I've told him I'm not going to let them retire that banner with only his name on it."
After taking 17th in the nation as a freshman and seventh as a sophomore, Beikmann was hoping to make a huge jump last year. However, he dropped to ninth, missing All-America recognition by one spot.
"That was really tough after taking seventh as a sophomore," he says. "Everything went wrong that could on that routine. I didn't fall off, but it was my worst score of the season. It's something I still think about every day."
But first there's a little business to take care of in the Big Ten. After winning the conference pommel horse championship in 2007, Beikmann lost out to Illinois freshman Daniel Ribeiro during his title defense in 2008.
"That guy from Illinois really caught me off guard last year," he says. "I got him in a dual down in Champaign and then he got me up here and again in the Big Ten Championships.
"I got a rough draw (first) for the Big Ten Championships and he went up last. I knew I was going to be in trouble and he was just better that day. We've got a friendly rivalry going, but I've re-evaluated my routine since then and I think I'm going to give him a scare. Plus, I'm tired of my teammates reminding me every day that he beat me."
Beikmann measures in at 5-foot-5 and 130 pounds. "Unless you're watching on ESPN, where they always list me at 5-8," he says with a laugh. "I enjoy those extra three inches."
According to the Golden Gophers co-captain, his mother, Elizabeth, got him involved in gymnastics.
"She was a former gymnast at the University of North Dakota," he says. "As my sixth birthday present, she enrolled me in gymnastics and I just loved it."
Although he was a four-time All-American in high school, Beikmann says he received little attention to further his gymnastics career.
"Coming to Minnesota was honestly a shot in the dark," he says. "No one was recruiting me and I was simply looking for a coach who would give me a chance.
"I sent out a bunch of e-mails and Mike (Burns) was the first to respond. He talked to me when I made it to the second day of Junior Olympics and I thought it (Minnesota) would be a comfortable fit."
However, Beikmann has been doing all four years as a walk-on. He has been able to make ends meet through academic scholarships.
"I've made it this far and I've never been one to take the easy path," he says. "Since I'm academically-oriented, I overload my schedule because I want to make sure I get the most out of what I'm paying for."
While his collegiate career is winding down, there's still a possibility Beikmann could extend his competitive career. The Winter Cup in Las Vegas in February will be a big key.
"If I do well enough there, I could gain a spot competing in the U.S. Nationals later in the summer," he says.
If not, then Beikmann will have to deal with twisters of a different kind.