The first time freshman Nicola Deans stepped on to the floor as a member of the MSU gymnastics team, it was an experience different from anything she ever thought it could be.
She explained competing in college is totally different than competing in high school or at the club level, adding more nerves to her first meet of the season.
“In club and in high school, it’s all about the individual, and now coming out here we’re working on things as a team, and it’s really amazing, I can’t even explain it,” she said. “It’s a group effort and less on pressure. You just go out there and have fun.”
Head coach Kathie Klages echoed Deans’ sentiments that it is a big step for the freshmen to think of the team as opposed to themselves during the competition.
“The one thing that is really difficult for these freshmen is that they’ve always competed really for themselves and never for a team,” she said. “It’s amazing how much pressure they feel that they want to do this for their team now.”
Deans joined six other underclassmen in the starting lineup Saturday when the Spartans lost to Western Michigan, 193.5-192.725, in the first meet of the season.
“It was nice to get out there and perform our routines, and get used to things, experience everything and just soak it up,” Deans said. “It was a really nice experience overall.”
Deans and Lisa Burt were named the “gymnasts to watch” this season by the Big Ten conference, and both competed in the all-around competition, along with sophomore Alina Cartwright.
The team started senior captain Taira Neal on two events and junior Dani Levey on two, but all other routines were preformed by underclassmen.
Burt started out the meet with disappointing performances on vault and uneven bars but recovered in the second half on balance beam and floor exercise to finish third in the all-around competition.
She said the nerves fluctuated before the meet started, but died off once it got underway.
“The nerves before the meet were much worse than the nerves during the meet,” Burt said. “There are certain events you need the jitters for, like vault and floor.”
Klages said there’s no way to keep the nerves from the first meet, but the experienced gained is what is most important.
“Being able to get on the competition floor, and seeing what it feels like is a huge plus, and we’ll only build from here and get better,” Klages said. “We can’t be timid in how we approach our competition. We’ll learn that and move forward.”
The Spartans get the Big Ten season underway at 6 p.m. Saturday when they travel to Lincoln, Neb., to take on Nebraska.