No. 19 Michigan State Sets Program Record in Big Five Victory
The win marked the second-straight victory at the Big Five Meet for MSU
LINCOLN, Neb. (MSU Athletics) - Competing in its first meet since Feb. 11, No. 19 Michigan State gymnastics set a program record of 197.675 en route to a dominant victory over No. 18 Minnesota, No. 13 Ohio State, Nebraska and Rutgers at the Big Five Meet Saturday afternoon at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln.
The win marked the second-straight victory at the Big Five Meet for MSU after earning a 196.975 win in 2022. Nebraska used a season-best 196.925 to take second, while Ohio State finished third in 196.750, Minnesota finished fourth in 195.800 and Rutgers rounded out the scoring with a 195.225.
The Spartans’ 197.675 breaks the previous record of 197.650 set at the NCAA Seattle Regional Finals on April 2, 2022. MSU also set a program record on vault with a 49.525, surpassing its 49.400 earned on Jan. 22 this season vs. Michigan and at the NCAA Seattle Regional finals on April 2, 2022.
The Spartans posted the highest team score among the two sessions over the weekend. No. 3 Michigan won the first session Friday night with a score of 197.100.
Starting the meet on bars, MSU put up five scores of 9.825 or higher, led senior by Jori Jackard, junior Delanie Harkness and sophomore Skyla Schulte, who all posted 9.850s. Schulte’s 9.850 tied her season high. Sophomore Gabi Stephen and Nikki Smith scored 9.850s, and freshman Olivia Zsarmani, returning to the bars lineup after being out in last meet’s lineup at Iowa, scored a 9.725. MSU ended the first rotation with a 49.200, narrowly trailing Ohio State by .100 and sitting in second place.
The Spartans used a season-high 49.350 performance on beam to take the lead after two rotations. Junior Giana Kalefe scored a 9.925 in the leadoff spot, tying her career high. Junior Baleigh Garcia put up the second 9.900 plus score for MSU with a 9.900 in the anchor position. Stephen scored a 9.875, and Schulte and Nikki Smith scored matching 9.825s. Making her first appearance in the beam lineup this season, Harkness scored a 9.700. Kalefe’s 9.950 earned her the outright even title, her first of the season.
Following a bye in the third rotation, MSU came out strong on floor, posting a 49.600 for the second-best team score in program history. In the leadoff spot, senior Nyah Smith matched her season high with a 9.875, followed by junior Giana Kalefe with a 9.825. MSU then posted four scores of 9.900 or higher to finish the rotation, starting with Harkness’ 9.900 in the third position. Stephen followed with a career-high 9.950, which was then matched by Nikki Smith in the fifth spot for her own career high on the event. Schulte put the exclamation point on the rotation with a 9.925, which tied her season high. Stephen and Nikki Smith tied for the event title, Stephen earning her first-ever title on the event and Smith collecting her second of the season.
MSU earned three scores of 9.900 or better to cap off a dominating night on vault. Nyah Smith, her competing in the lead-off position for the second-straight event, scored a career-high 9.900 to start the rotation. The Spartans then followed with three-straight 9.875s by Garcia, Schulte and freshman Sage Kellerman. In the final two spots, Nikki Smith matched her career high of 9.95 and Stephen anchored with a 9.925 to secure the vault and program records for MSU.
Stephen won the all-around title outright, tying her career-high 39.575 for the fourth-best all-around score in school history. Nikki Smith tied for second with Nebraska’s Emma Spence with a career-high 39.550, beating her own sixth-best score in program history. Schulte tied for fourth with Minnesota’s Gianna Gerdes with a 39.475, tying her season high. Stephen and Smith scored the top two all-around scores among both sessions, topping Friday’s winner, Michigan’s Natalie Wojcik, who scored a 39.500.
Up next, MSU stays on the road to face No. 23 Illinois in Champaign on Monday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT. Streaming is available on B1G+.
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