If the MSU gymnastics team wants to go to NCAA Regionals next month, they must do well at the Big Ten Championships this weekend at Jenison Field House.
After a disappointing 193.45 in Denver last weekend, head coach Kathie Klages said a team score of at least 196 will be required to get above the 36-team threshold to make it to the next round.
“Mathematically, we still have an opportunity to move up into the top 36, but it’s going to be tough, it’s going to be very tough,” Klages said. “It would have definitely helped us to have a better score at Denver.”
She said the team still performed well in Denver, especially after receiving a season-high 49.075 on vault.
After traveling to Iowa City, Iowa and Minneapolis the last two seasons, Klages said the opportunity to perform in front of a home crowd can be both good and bad.
“It’s a little different because our arena is going to be set up a little bit different,” she said. “We have a lot of distractions when it’s home because everybody’s parents are coming and it will be a meet in which there will be a lot of excitement too because we are at home. We have to do what we can to keep our kids focused on what the job is at hand, and that is to perform well at the Big Ten Championships.”
MSU will perform alongside Illinois, Ohio State and Iowa at 1 p.m. in the first session of the meet. Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State and Minnesota will participate in session two at 6 p.m.
Senior captain Taira Neal, who was named second team All-Big Ten this week, said she feels like the home crowds are better for the Spartans.
“It adds a little more nerves because you’re always a little more nervous when your family and friends are going to be there,” Neal said “It’s going to be better that all four events are going to be going at the same time, so you have to just focus on one person competing.”
Still, the Spartans perform better away from Jenison Field House.
Three of MSU’s top four performances this season came on the road, so the team will make the Big Ten Championships as much like an away meet as possible.
“It’s harder to get what we want, especially at Big Tens because the stats say that we do better away, but at Big Tens, they have more judges, they see more things and the scores normally aren’t as high,” sophomore Alina Cartwright said. “It’s going to be a lot tougher than a normal meet.”
She added that the team has dealt with rowdy crowds and chaotic situations in the past, so having three other teams performing at the same time won’t be much of a distraction.
As the only senior on the team, Neal has been through the experience of Big Ten Championships before, and said she is giving the team any words of wisdom she can to keep them focused.
“Just don’t try to do more than you know you can do,” she said. “Because a lot of people feel like they go harder at Big Tens because they feel like they want to be Big Ten champ or get the title. Just go through your routine and make sure you hit for the team because we need a good score.”