The Michigan State women’s gymnastics team hosted both Central Michigan and Illinois State in a non-conference tri-meet at Jenison Field House Saturday afternoon, and the Spartans placed second with a total team score of 195.225.
“Last week wasn’t nearly close to our expectations,” Head Coach Mike Rowe said about the duel against Western Michigan on Jan. 5, when the Spartans posted just a 191.850. Rowe said it was nice to see that, although they started out on the uneven bars a little flat and endured four falls, they were able to pick themselves back up and come on stronger and more consistent for the remaining three events.
This week, Rowe said, the Spartans have been working extra hard to get their mojo back and hit where they need to be. During today’s meet, the team had two total falls on the uneven bars, rather than the previous four, and this brought their overall score up significantly.
No Spartans received a medal on the uneven bars, however junior Lea Mitchell reached fourth place with a score of 9.825, with Central Michigan freshman Hannah Demers in first at 9.900, followed by a tie between Central Michigan senior Denelle Pedrick and Illinois State sophomore Sofia Iribarren, both at 9.875.
The Spartan ladies had opened the day’s rotation on vault, with Nyah Smith concluding the event in second place with a score of 9.825, below Demers, who sat at the top at 9.850.
In their third rotation, the first of three career-highs was reached by senior Gabriella Douglas with a beautiful beam routine that landed her the first-place spot and a score of 9.950.
There was a three-way tie for third place with a score of 9.875 between Central Michigan sophomore Morgan Tong and Michigan State sophomores Chloe Bellmore and Mitchell.
Three Spartans were part of a four-way tie for first on floor routines: Mitchell, sophomore Ashley Hofelich and Douglas, along with CMU's Pedrick — all with a score of 9.875.
Hofelich’s performance was a solid career-high routine, the second overall in the meet for MSU.
Michigan State’s Mitchell earned the first-place spot for the all-around, with a career-high of 39.375.
“Words can’t really describe how I feel,” Mitchell said. “A lot of times, like in practice, you don’t really see how much your hard work — your blood, sweat and tears that you put into the sport — to see it finally pay-off is a huge blessing.”
Mitchell said she’s going to keep training hard in the gym and to keep pushing herself to strive to be better for the next meet and for her teammates. She wants to be someone who her teammates can count on for motivation and inspiration through her actions and words.
“It’s really exciting because we have star gymnasts on every event,” Rowe said. “Every one of these kids can bring a 9.900 routine and that’s something we’ve never had before.”
Rowe says that he’s going to help the girls in the gym over this 13-week season, making corrections and modifications as some of them will not be transferring over to the competitive arena.
Rowe's main concern, he said, is that the girls stay fit and healthy, putting them through mandatory “power hours” of rehab and treatment to care for their bodies as they get beaten down by competitions.
“We can’t push them or over-train them to the point where, yeah, they could be (scoring highly), but then we might not have them for the rest of the season," Rowe said. "We’ve got a really talented group and we actually started to get a couple people deeper on each event now too, which will be nice where we can rest some kids at certain times, especially getting into the Big Ten season next week."
The Chippewas topped the meet with a score of 195.675, while the Redbirds rounded it out at 192.850. The Spartans recorded 12 personal bests.
Competitors and coaches wore blue ribbons in memorial of and support for Southern Connecticut State University junior gymnast Melanie Coleman, who died in November 2019 after a fall on the uneven bars during practice caused a severe spinal cord injury.
The Spartans are scheduled to host Ohio State next Saturday at Jenison Fieldhouse. This will be the second meet in the Buckeyes' 2020 season.