Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Michigan State gymnastics hits season-best road score, places 4th at Elevate the Stage

February 23, 2020
<p>Junior Lea Mitchell waits to begin her floor routine on Feb. 22, 2020 during Elevate the Stage at the Huntington Center in Toledo, OH. </p>

Junior Lea Mitchell waits to begin her floor routine on Feb. 22, 2020 during Elevate the Stage at the Huntington Center in Toledo, OH.

Photo by Jack Falinski | The State News

The Michigan State gymnastics team (3-3-0) was on a win high after dropping Rutgers (1-4-0) and No. 23 Illinois (9-5-0) in back-to-back conference duals.

The Spartans took that energy into their second appearance at “Elevate the Stage” on Feb. 22, but were quickly wiped out by their undefeated in-state rivals No. 9 Michigan (11-0-0), No. 7 Minnesota (5-2-0) and an unranked Penn State (5-8-0).

The Saturday Big Five bracket came to a close with the Spartans in fourth place, tallying an overall score of 195.975 — one eighth of a point from breaking 196-plus again — and edging out No. 24 Maryland (6-3-0).

"It was really close ... Fell a little bit short getting by Penn State, but we're very excited with where we are right now," coach Mike Rowe said. "(This was) probably one of our highest finishes in the Big Ten thus far. ... (I'm) really excited of what the future holds for the rest of this season. We're not done yet. We're still not hitting on all cylinders, but we have some good consistency going on."

Following the conclusion of the weekend's two-part showdown, MSU has been ranked sixth in the Big Ten conference.

The first rotation of the night put MSU on the uneven parallel bars, where freshman Jori Jackard took top honors for the green and white in a fifth place tie with Michigan freshman Sierra Brooks, Minnesota sophomore Tiarre Sales, and Michigan senior Maggie O’Hara.

All four ladies tallied a score of 9.875.

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The next highest score for a Spartan on this event was totaled at 9.850 by junior Lea Mitchell in a six-way tie for ninth place.

The second rotation of the night put MSU on the beam, where senior Gabriella Douglas recorded a 9.900 to take top honors for the green and white and tie for fourth place with Michigan senior Lexi Funk.

"I'm really proud of myself, I'm really proud of the whole team," Douglas said. "Now is the time in the season where it gets really hard. We're more than halfway in, so you start coming into meets with a little bit less adrenaline, your body's a little bit tired, so I'm so proud of everybody today for still being able to fight through that and still come out with a really good meet."

The next highest score for a Spartan on this event was totaled by freshman Nyah Smith, who wrote in a new career-high after logging the seventh place score of 9.850. After her performance against the Fighting Illini, Smith was thrilled.

"Coming here today, I was planning on being confident and not focused on anything else around me," Smith said. "Going up there knowing I was going to hit it made me feel great."

The third rotation of the night was the Spartans’ “bye rotation”. Because there were five teams and four events, every team was granted an opportunity to sit their girls on the sidelines and rest for a brief period of time while the podiums were active.

The fourth rotation of the night put MSU on floor, where Douglas and Smith both stumbled outside of the lines during their performances. The pair still scored 9.6-plus regardless.

Mitchell and sophomore Ashley Hofelich landed with a score of 9.900, snagging top honors for the green and white in a seven-way tie for third place.

The fifth and final rotation of the night put MSU on vault, where Mitchell received her second 9.900 of the night. However, she was robbed of a rose by the Wolverines, sinking deep into a six-way tie for fourth place.

"Ending on vault with my career-high ... words can't explain how excited I was," Mitchell said. "I was just finally happy to stick it ... because I've been stuck on the 9.800 hump since freshman year."

The Spartans posted a season-best on vault as a team, with an overall score of 49.075.

In the all-around competition, the two Spartan ladies who were eligible did not reach the board. Mitchell still hasn’t broken free from her 39.300 prison, while Smith collected her third 39-plus this season.

"To tie my career-high ... again," Mitchell said. "It's just a self-motivator. It reminds me that what I'm doing in the gym is paying off, even though I can't always see it, ... progress is being made."

The Wolverines topped the meet with the regular season title after earning a score of 197.950.

The Gophers were in close second with a 196.650 and the Nittany Lions rounded out the medal lineup in third with a 196.125. The Terrapins settled at the bottom with a 195.325.

"Regardless of the scores, we hit 24 for 24 routines," Douglas said. "We haven't done that in a while and that's what we wanted today."

This season, Elevate the Stage donated $3,500 to the Collegiate Gymnastics Growth Initiative. MSU’s Rowe was among the three coaches to receive a check for their program.

The Spartan ladies are continuing their battle with ranked teams, traveling to Ames, Iowa Friday, Feb. 28 for a non-conference dual with No. 17 Iowa State (7-6-0).

"(We're most excited for) getting on the road again and getting a good road score," Rowe said. "Just keep pushing the details. ... We've gone 196.000 twice at home, it's like, we've got to get something. ... And we still have opportunities to do that."

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