The MSU gymnastics team looks to get ready for the season as the Green squad defeated the White squad 115.65 to 115.50 at the Green and White Scrimmage Sunday afternoon.
Freshman Lisa Burt won the all-around competition with a score of 38.95 and won the balance beam and tied for the floor exercise title with sophomore Alina Cartwright.
Of the 17 members on the team, 12 of them are underclassmen, and head coach Kathie Klages said they are much improved from last season when they finished last in the Big Ten.
“Even though we are a young team, we’re an extremely talented team and we are much improved in terms of difficulty and what we’re presenting on the floor,” Klages said. “With the improved difficulty, we’re looking to move up the Big Ten rankings and the national rankings.”
This season is the first time that all Big Ten teams must compete against each other before the Big Ten Championships at the end of the season, and Klages said she hopes to capture one of the two titles.
“In the past, we’ve never had to meet with all the other Big Ten schools in the regular season,” she said. “We could meet with whomever we wanted, and then come together at the end of the season for the Big Ten Championships. Now we’re going to have a regular season champion and a tournament champion.”
Both Cartwright and sophomore Ashley Stevenson both were limited last season with injuries and Klages said she will be looking for them to perform well this season.
The only senior on the team, Taira Neal, was voted captain by the team and said she hopes to lead them to an improvement from last year.
“Obviously, (we want) a better place in the big ten,” Neal said. “We’ve gotten last the last two years, so (I’m) just trying to lead them to the night session because then we could contend for a Big Ten title.”
After being named second-team All-Big Ten a season ago, Neal said her personal goal is to improve on that position.
“My personal goal is to make first-team All-Big Ten, because last year I made second team,” she said. “I upgraded my dismount on bars, so I’m trying to work that out.”
Burt might be a freshman, but she said that the camaraderie on the team is what gives her hope this team will do well.
“Even though we’re young, it doesn’t really feel like that,” Burt said. “I get along with the girls so well; it just feels like a big family. The upperclassmen don’t treat us like typical freshmen.”
The Port Orange, Fla. native is one of 13 members of the team to come from outside of the state of Michigan, and Burt said she knew she wanted to come to MSU the second she visited campus for the first time.
“I love Michigan State,” she said. “I fell in love with the campus when I visited, and I actually came back a second time for an unofficial visit just to see it again.”
The Spartans travel to Ann Arbor, to take on Michigan in an exhibition match on Dec. 7, and open the regular season Jan. 12 at Jenison Field House against Western Michigan.
“It’s going to be in Crisler Center, which is (Michigan’s) competition gym, so there will be no soft ladings anywhere,” Klages said. “I’m just looking to get them into a bigger arena that will feel more like a true competition, and I think that once they do that, we’ll be setting ourselves up for a great season.”