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COLUMN: The future is bright for MSU gymnastics

April 24, 2023
<p>The Michigan State Gymnastics team is introduced before a meet against the University of Michigan on Jan. 22, 2023. The Spartans upset the No. 3 Wolverines with 197.200 points.</p>

The Michigan State Gymnastics team is introduced before a meet against the University of Michigan on Jan. 22, 2023. The Spartans upset the No. 3 Wolverines with 197.200 points.

No team wants to narrowly miss out on the national championship meet two years in a row. But, that is the reality for the Michigan State gymnastics team at the moment after being knocked out of the Pittsburgh regional finals by .15.

On paper, that may seem negative and frustrating, but looking back on the past few years of MSU gymnastics, you can’t help but be optimistic.

Two seasons ago, Michigan State finished the regular season ranked 56th in the nation. This season, the Spartans finished ranked 11th.

There is so much for the green and white to be proud of and it is unfortunate that their season came down to such a close margin.

Thinking back to the beginning of the season, Michigan State hit milestone after milestone, starting with the program’s first win over Michigan since 2007 in front of a sold-out Jenison Field House.

The energy in the room was palpable during that first home-meet. It set the scene for what turned out to be an exciting season for MSU. The meet against Michigan may have set the tone for the season, but the Spartans just kept on getting better and better from that point on.

Michigan State broke not one, but two program final score records. The first new record was set during the Big Five meet where the team took first place with a 197.675. The second record came at home during the tri-meet against Bowling Green and Long Island. The Spartans came out of that matchup with a massive 198.225, a brand new program record and a few more milestones to go along with it including broken records on vault, bars and beam. Not to mention, MSU's first-ever perfect 10.000 on the uneven bars from senior Jori Jackard, the first perfect 10.000 of the season on vault for freshman Nikki Smith and a program high 39.775 all-around score from Smith.

The 2023 season also saw MSU gymnastics earning its first-ever Big Ten regular season championship and the runner-up spot at the conference championship meet.

Although the team did not qualify for nationals, the season did not end at regionals for everyone. Sophomore Gabrielle Stephen qualified for an individual spot, competing nationally on the beam. Junior Delanie Harkness qualified individually on floor.

Michigan State's accomplishments this past season are impressive on their own, but to do so well with such a young team is an accomplishment in itself. 13 different gymnasts competed this season at one point or another, and seven of them were freshmen or sophomores.

The Spartans had the 2022 and 2023 Big Ten Freshman of the Year in Skyla Schulte and Smith. But despite these honors, head coach Mike Rowe said before heading to regionals that he doesn’t believe Michigan State is quite on top of its game in regards to recruiting.

“We're getting close to being on our recruiting game," Rowe said. "We're really excited with each class that we bring in. We're already watching our freshmen coming in next year. They're doing great at their state meets … but we're very excited with the kids we got coming in.”

The loss of seniors Jori Jackard and Tori Loomis will certainly be felt next season, but there is no denying that the future is bright for Michigan State gymnastics.

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