Wednesday, September 23, 2020

'It's the landings': Michigan State gymnastics' Douglas and Smith stumble on floor

February 24, 2020
<p>Freshman Nyah Smith during her floor routine at the gymnastics meet at Jenison Field House on Feb. 16, 2020. The Spartans took the win over the Fighting Illini. </p>

Freshman Nyah Smith during her floor routine at the gymnastics meet at Jenison Field House on Feb. 16, 2020. The Spartans took the win over the Fighting Illini.

Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

Michigan State gymnastics battled hard through the first half of their Saturday bracket at "Elevate the Stage," dominating their rotations through bars and beam with new tricks and only a handful of "whoopsies," as coach Mike Rowe put it. "Some missed handstands and some missed landings," Rowe said. " ... but they stayed on."

Senior Gabriella Douglas, and her teammate freshman Nyah Smith, both individually tore up the beam rotation for the Spartans.

Douglas recorded a score of 9.900 to take the top honors for the green and white in a fourth place tie with Michigan senior Lexi Funk, while Smith wrote in a new personal career-high with the seventh place score of 9.850.

The veteran and the rookie were on fire, taking that adrenaline into their fourth rotation floor routines with no doubt or hesitation in their minds.

The first half of the Spartan line-up completed their exercises easily. But, when it came time for Douglas and Smith to perform, the nerves kicked into overdrive against their brewing confidence and both were abandoned to the bottom of the 31-girl pyramid.

It was a never before seen moment, back-to-back, as Douglas and Smith both landed out-of-bounds on the podium.

"Elevate the Stage" was performed on lifted podium-like structures, or elevated stages (hence the event name), causing for a bit of extra bounce compared to the normal and flat flooring that the teams are used to competing on.

"You have to adjust to the equipment when you get here," Douglas said in regards to her misstep. "Thank goodness I didn't fall."

Douglas received 30th with a score of 9.650, and Smith was right behind her in 31st with a score of 9.625. Regardless, these were still not the lowest scores of the night for the Spartans.

"It's a reminder that anything can happen when you're out here," Douglas said. " ... That when you come out here, it's anybody's game. Everybody is so talented out here and the competition is so tight."

Douglas said that any bobble or step out-of-bounds can knock a tenth off your score and set your team back a lot more than you'd expect.

Both Douglas and Smith are taking this minor mistake as motivation to do better next time, when they travel to No. 17 Iowa State for a non-conference dual, and every time after that.

"Sometimes that little bit of extra adrenaline, you get going and it's too late," Rowe said. "Once you're in mid-air flipping, you're trying to find the ground, it's too late."

Rowe said that extra work in warm-ups, getting a feel for the floor, what it's giving you and determining how hard you have to work, or not, would have helped in better preparing the two ladies for their routines.

Rowe, similar to Douglas and Smith, also has a positive outlook. "We always love aggressive mistakes," he said. "You can't do this sport and be successful if you're going to go tentative or apprehensive, so aggressive mistakes are good."

Rowe is going to make sure his gymnasts know that it's just some numbers, nothing to harp on. "(It's) kind of learning to get more in your zone and control your emotions. ... We'll just keep pushing the details. It's the landings."

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