Michigan State’s gymnastics team left the mat Friday night with reason to be pleased with its performance in three events.
But it was the fourth piece of the puzzle that doomed the Spartans at the senior night meet as struggles on the beam proved too much to overcome as they finished in last place.
”We had three wonderful events,” coach Kathie Klages said. “And beam was horrible – absolutely horrible – and that’s the event that I coach.”
However, the Spartans had an individual place first in all four events -- vault, uneven bars, beam and floor.
“That’s another really positive for our program,” Klages said. “You just can’t take away the disappointment about not coming through for the seniors on senior night.”
Michigan State held a lead following the first two events after strong showings from the senior Cartwright in vault and junior Lisa Burt on the uneven bars.
For Cartwright, her personal-record 9.95 was a fitting end to her final home meet and a stuck landing that came with a little bit of magic, as Klages said.
“That was really awesome because I haven’t twisted since the last meet due to my ankle injury,” Cartwright said. “I just trusted my preparation and trucked it pretty much.”
Burt kept things rolling for MSU with a 9.90 on the bars, as sophomore Mackenzie Smith placed second with a personal-record 9.875.
It looked like things kept cruising along in bars, as junior Brittany Holmes opened with a 9.725, but a pair of scores in the 9.2-range threw off most of the rest of the round as MSU finished with a meet-low 47.325.
“Our first kid (Holmes) hit a beautiful routine,” Klages said. “Second kid (freshman Victoria Huehn) missed some connections. I think the fear of ‘Oh my gosh, I have to hit now because somebody made a mistake’ went through the entire lineup.”
Freshman Hailee Westney was the bright spot on beam, as she placed first with a personal-best 9.85. The Spartans then bounced back strongly on the floor to close the meet, as junior Elena Lagoski gave them a sweep of the four floor events as she placed first with a 9.9.
It was Lagoski who pulled her teammates together after the less-than-stellar beam performance to
”I was like, ‘Listen guys, we are a good floor team. We know how to do floor. Don’t be upset with yourselves,’” she said. “It was just go about it like you know how to do.”
It worked, as the Spartans had the highest team floor score with a 49.2 and podiumed Burt in second place with a 9.875 and sophomore Kira Frederick tied for third with Arizona’s Jessie Sisler and Allison Flores with a 9.85.
Lagoski said it reflected the mental toughness the team needed to have in finishing the meet well, which Klages said was a focus following the beam.
“We talked to them about not having mental toughness on beam and they were letting a person’s performance affect them even though they hadn’t even gone yet,” she said. “So they are lacking some mental toughness on beam, but, boy, they came back on floor and they weren’t going to go easy.
”We did go down, but we weren’t going down easy.”
With the Nebraska Qualifier coming up next Saturday, a lot is on the line for the Spartans. The event will determine their seed in the Big Ten Championships in Ann Arbor, Mich., on March 21.
Klages hopes to see her team place in the top three of five teams at Nebraska, something she said they are fully capable of doing as they entered Friday seeded third.
“It’s a reality that it can be done,” she said. “We are really looking forward to fixing beam. We had three great events tonight.
”It’s just a matter of fixing beam, going out there next weekend and showing them what we are really capable of and hopefully qualifying for that night session at Big Ten Championships.”