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Gymnastics Heads to Iowa for Big Ten Championships

Sophomore Alex Pace

March 23, 2012

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State gymnastics team is headed to Iowa City, Iowa to compete in the 2012 Big Ten Championships this weekend. The Spartans will participate in the early session, beginning at 2:05 p.m. ET, on Saturday (March 24) at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Michigan State enters the championships with a 194.840 RQS and 31st national standing. The Spartans are averaging a team score of 193.725 and recorded a season-high 195.550 against Illinois-Chicago (March 2). MSU is looking to get its first team championship in program history and first individual title since 2006.

"The Big Ten Championships will be very exciting because all of the teams are ranked in top 31 in the nation," said head coach Kathie Klage. " We competed at Iowa earlier this year, which is beneficial because we are familiar with the gym and equipment. We are excited about the Big Ten Championships because they will help us prepare for the NCAA Regionals."

Michigan State is sitting in eighth place in the Big Ten with a 48.860 vault RQS. MSU posted its season-high score of 49.175 at Alaska-Anchorage (March 11), which is tied for fifth in school history for highest team vault score. Nebraska is the top team in the conference on the vault with a 49.410 RQS.

Redshirt sophomore Taira Neal has led the Spartans on the vault all year, placing in the event 11 of 12 meets and winning the title nine times. Neal is tied with Nebraska's Jamie Schleppenbach for fifth in the Big Ten with a 9.900 RQS. The Second Team All-Big Ten honoree recorded a career-best 9.925 at Iowa, then tied that mark three times throughout the season.

Uneven Bars
The Spartans are currently eighth in the league on the uneven bars, posting a 48.805 RQS. MSU saw its best score of the year on the bars when it tabbed a 49.075 at home vs. Illinois-Chicago.

Leading the team on the uneven bars is senior Jackie Berg. With a 9.845 RQS, Berg is currently tied for seventh in the Big Ten with Brittnee Martinez from Michigan. The Tinely Park, Ill. native tied her career-best 9.875 on the uneven bars at Illinois on Feb. 17.



Balance Beam
MSU is posting a 48.615 RQS on the balance beam, which is good enough for seventh in the conference. The highest beam score of the season for the Spartans was a 49.225 at Alaska-Anchorage. Nebraska is leading the Big Ten with a 49.130 RQS on the beam.

Neal is the top Spartan in the Big Ten beam standings with a 9.765 RQS and tie for 25th place. Penn State's Sharaya Musser is atop the conference rankings with a 9.905 RQS.

Floor Exercise
Michigan State is currently eighth in the Big Ten in the floor exercise with a 48.645 RQS. The Spartans notched the top score of the year in the floor exercise vs. Illinois State (Jan. 28) with a 48.975.

Sophomore Dani Levy tops the team with a 9.810 RQS in the floor exercise. She is currently tied with two others for 25th in the Big Ten and has recorded a career-best 9.875 in the event at Michigan (March 17).

Levy is the only Spartan to compete in the all-around this year, posting a 38.625 RQS. The New Port Richey, Fla. native tied her personal-high 39.125 in the all-around at home vs. UIC (March 2).

2011 Big Ten Championship Recap Last year, MSU traveled to Minneapolis, Minn. to participate in the 2011 Big Ten Championships. The Spartans placed seventh as a team (194.425) as Berg earned her 10th top-three bars finish, placing third with a 9.850 mark.

Next Up for MSU
Michigan State awaits to see where they qualify for the NCAA Regionals on April 7. The 2012 regionals will be hosted by Auburn (Auburn, Ala.), Illinois (Champaign, Ill.), Arkansas (Fayetteville, Ark.), North Carolina State (Raleigh, N.C.), Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah.) and Washington (Seattle, Wash.).

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