Wednesday, August 12, 2020

PREVIEW: Michigan State gymnastics ranked No. 25 in national poll, travels to No. 17 Iowa State for non-conference duel

February 28, 2020
<p>Sophomore Alaina Raybon high fives her teammates on Feb. 22, 2020 during Elevate the Stage at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio. </p>

Sophomore Alaina Raybon high fives her teammates on Feb. 22, 2020 during Elevate the Stage at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio.

Photo by Jack Falinski | The State News

The Michigan State gymnastics team (3-3-0) is continuing on their road battle with ranked teams, traveling to Ames, Iowa on Feb. 28 for a non-conference duel against the No. 17 Iowa State Cyclones (7-6-0).

The ladies only have four weekends of competition left in their regular season before the NCAA Regionals in early April.

Previously on Spartan Gymnastics...

This will be the first matchup between the Big 12 and Big Ten schools since January 2003, where the green and white suffered a huge setback after a four-event sweep from the red and gold.

The team has been working hard in the gym on landings after two missteps cost them a couple of tenths at "Elevate the Stage."

"We emphasize technique," coach Mike Rowe said. "We're doing a lot of hands-on shaping with some of the landing drills. A lot of individual specific details. ... They know they're capable of doing it, but sometimes adrenaline gets going and things happen in meets that are just like 'Oops!'"

Rowe said that his girls are in great physical shape as far as endurance goes on every event, it's just about thinking through to the last flip. Once you start the routine, it's not over until you finish with your feet glued to the mats.

The Spartan gymnasts tallied a season-best road score of 195.975 — one eighth of a point from breaking 196-plus for a third time.

The ladies had also knocked Maryland to the bottom of Saturday's Big Five bracket and out of the Top 25 all together.

Announced on Monday, the Spartan gymnasts have been ranked No. 25 in the Road to Nationals weekly poll and are tied for No. 4 in the Big Ten conference standings alongside three other teams who are all holding out at 4-5.

The ladies also found out that they will be performing in the evening session of the Big Ten Championship on Sat., March 21, starting out on floor as a No. 4 seed.

"When the news came ... we were like, 'Wait ... is this a punk? Are we getting punked?'" Rowe said. "It was very exciting and obviously well deserved, well earned. What a great, not even a finish to our season because we still have four weeks left and we can do bigger and better things. ... Sky's kind of the limit."

Rowe said he sees No. 25 as another stepping-stone for the team in the enhancement of their National Qualifying Score (NQS).

Gymnasts to Watch For

There's a new face in the Spartan spotlight for week nine.

Sophomore Ashley Hofelich was at the helm of the green and white floor rotation, logging a score of 9.900 to put her in a seven-way third place tie.

This was Hofelich's third-consecutive 9.900 this season. "It's definitely super motivating," she said. "Last year I wasn't able to hit that, so it was really exciting to think that I've hit some bigger marks and made some changes, especially on the details."

Junior Lea Mitchell checked in at fourth in the all-around competition, logging a career-high of 39.375, while her teammate, freshman Nyah Smith, collected her third score of 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."

In the opposing spotlight, Iowa State junior Andrea Maldonado has been named the Big 12 Co-Event Specialist of the Week after logging a vault score of 9.925 in a Cyclone win against No. 19 Southern Utah on Feb. 21.

This is the second time Maldonado has received Event Specialist honors. The first time came after their week three matchup at Georgia, where she logged a floor score of 9.950.

The event on Friday will be the first time that the Michigan State gymnastics team competes against a ranked team while ranked themselves. A win would continue to build the team's NQS in preparation for April. "We've gone 49 on each event numerous times," Rowe said. "(Now) we've got to do it all at once. That's going to keep us over that 196-mark."

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