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Gymnastics Host Autism Awareness Meet

Taira Neal has taken home first place on the vault in all four dual meets this year.

Feb. 10, 2012

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State Gymnastics team will finish its three-meet home stand when it hosts Pittsburgh on Saturday (Feb. 11) at 7 p.m. The second annual Autism Awareness Meet will feature a demonstration of special needs gymnasts and an appearance by Olympic and World Champion gymnast Alicia Sacramone. Doors will open at 5 p.m. with autograph signing beginning at 5:30 and the presentation starting at 6:30 p.m.

"We are hoping to have a really good performance this Saturday at the second annual Autism Awareness Meet," said head coach Kathie Klages. "There will be special needs gymnasts performing before our event, so we hope people will get there early. We are very close with Pittsburgh in our Regional Qualifying Score, so it should be a very good competition. It is always special when you have someone like Alicia Sacramone in the house, because our athletes will want to perform well for her. We want to break the attendance record so we are looking forward to getting a lot of people out on Saturday."

Team physician Dr. Larry Nassar is the founder of the event and is particularly drawn to autism as his daughter, Caroline, is autistic. Due to Dr. Nassar's connection to the world of gymnastics as he is Team USA's team physician, Alicia Sacramone will make a special appearance prior to the meet and sign autographs. Sacramone was a member of the 2008 Silver Medal winning US Olympic team and has won nine career World Championship medals. There will also be a presentation by local gymnasts with special needs before the competition.

Michigan State enters the weekend with a continuously improving team average of 192.555. The Spartans are earning the highest marks on the vault with a team average of 48.685, which is good enough for 27th in the nation. Last week MSU posted their highest score of the year on the vault with a 48.000. Michigan State is also ranked 33rd nationally on the floor exercise with an average team score of 48.515. MSU is averaging a 48.740 on the bars and 47.215 on the balance beam.



Individually, Taira Neal is posting a 9.855 average on the vault, which ties her for 34th in the country, eighth regionally and ninth in the Big Ten. The redshirt sophomore has taken first place in the event in all four dual meets this season. Freshman Alina Cartwright is the top Spartan on the uneven bars with an average score of 9.713, which is good enough for a tied 22nd place in the region and 23rd in the conference. Sophomore Sarena Bumbarger is leading MSU on the balance beam. She is currently ranked 14th in the Big Ten and 13th in the central region with an average score of 9.742. In the all-around, sophomore Dani Levy is averaging a 38.065 score for 21st regionally.

Last week Michigan State defeated Southeast Missouri 193.450-188.350 in the annual Alumni Meet. Three Spartans tied or beat their personal-best, including senior Selina Rodriguez (9.775) and Cartrwright (9.775) on the bars and freshman Ashley Noll on the beam (9.700).

Pittsburgh enters the meet with a team average of 192.856 after posting their highest team score in two years with a 194.550. The Panthers also notched season-high marks on the bars and the floor with 48.300 and 49.075, respectively.

The Spartans will be on the road next weekend when they travel to Illinois on Friday (Feb. 17). Michigan State will resume conference action at 8 p.m. (ET) at Huff Hall in Champaign, Ill.

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