Big Ten Women’s Gymnastics Week 8 Recap: Michigan State wins regular season title but Michigan steals the show

By Caroline Price | February 27, 2024
Michigan State's Gabi Ortiz on vault at the 2024 Mean Girls Super 16 meet.
© Filippo Tomasi/Gymnastics Now

Week 8 in Big Ten women’s gymnastics saw the entire conference descend on Happy Valley in a contentious and competitive Big Five battle. The Michigan State Spartans completed their undefeated conference record, finishing 9-0 to claim the Big Ten Regular Season title outright, going back-to-back.

Session I Final Results:

  1. Michigan State: 197.275
  2. Ohio State: 197.000
  3. Minnesota: 196.900
  4. Nebraska: 195.725
  5. Rutgers: 195.275

Session II Final Results:

  1. Michigan: 197.500
  2. Illinois: 196.850
  3. Penn State: 196.775
  4. Iowa: 196.225
  5. Maryland: 195.100

Though the Spartans left with a trophy, the Wolverines posted the highest score across both sessions (197.500). With the evening session for the Big Ten Championship set (Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota), the conference showdown is shaping up to be unbelievably competitive.

Read below to see how your favorite team faired at Big Fives.

#8 Michigan State @ Big Fives Session I

Big Fives Score: 197.275 (1st)

The Spartans left Happy Valley with another trophy to add to their quickly-growing trophy case: their second-consecutive Big Ten Regular Season title. The team could have shared the title with one loss in their session, but Mike Rowe’s squad opted to go for the perfect 9-0 record and an outright title.

Starting on vault, the Spartans built momentum with every effort. Four athletes scored 9.875 or better, but Nikki Smith was the highlight. Smith absolutely nailed her Yurchenko 1.5 for her season high (9.975) and the event title. The stick felt like an omen for good things to come.

Highlight: Nikki Smith on vault (9.975). Smith stuck her massive Yurchenko 1.5 in a pivotal moment, energizing her team after a lackluster start on vault.

While a couple of Spartans struggled with their landings on bars, the team tallied three 9.9s from Smith, Skyla Schulte, and Delanie Harkness. Harkness’ routine in the anchor spot, complete with a stuck full-twisting double back, seemed to ignite a fire in the team.

Beam was uncharacteristically nervy. Beam scoring was also tight throughout the meet – the highest score across 30 athletes was a 9.9. Nonetheless, the Spartans posted a pair of 9.85s from Baleigh Garcia and Gianna Kalefe. Kalefe’s beam was particularly important, coming in the leadoff spot to set the tone for the rotation.

While they held a slight lead, Michigan State had the Buckeyes on their tails heading into floor. However, while Ohio State battled on bars, the Spartans sealed the deal with a 49.475 on floor. Elle Beaufait notched a career-high 9.925 for her artistically excellent routine, while Schulte added a 9.925 of her own to clinch the win and the program’s first outright regular season title.

Next up, the Spartans head home to host New Hampshire in their Breast Cancer Awareness meet. The team will look to post a high-197 score in East Lansing to improve their national ranking.

Upcoming matchup: Friday, March 1 @ 7 p.m. ET | New Hampshire @ Michigan State – Live Stats | Video (BIG+)

#11 Michigan @ Big Fives Session II

Big Fives Score: 197.500 (1st)

While they didn’t get a share of the regular season title, Michigan had a lot to be excited about at Big Fives. The Wolverines outscored regular season champion Michigan State and won their meet by nearly seven-tenths to secure a spot in the Big Ten Championships’ evening session. Dynamic duo Sierra Brooks and Gabby Wilson finished 1-2 in the all-around with a 39.65 and 39.625, respectively.

Highlight: Sierra Brooks on floor (9.975). Brooks’ routine, including a two-footed stick on her final pass (front through to double tuck), helped seal the win for the Wolverines in the last rotation.

The Wolverines had an inconsistent start on vault, with much of the lineup struggling to find clean landings. This wasn’t an issue for Reyna Guggino, who stuck her massive Yurchenko 1.5 for a season high and the event title (9.950). Carly Bauman was an exciting addition to the lineup, vaulting a tucked Yurchenko 1.5 in her 2024 vault debut (9.75).

The team posted a strong 49.350 on bars despite counting a 9.675 and recording a fall from Farah Lipetz. Four athletes went 9.9 or better, with Brooks drilling her full-twisting double layout dismount for a 9.95.

Heading to beam, the Wolverines needed to up the ante. While beam was the most tightly-scored apparatus, the team went six-for-six to earn a solid 49.300. Wilson posted their highest score (9.9) for her routine, featuring a spectacular (and rare) stuck double tuck dismount.

Michigan went into floor with the lead, only to finish with a wider margin after a huge 49.600. Paige Thaxton made her season debut on the event in the anchor spot, earning a respectable 9.875. Impressively, this would be the Wolverines’ lowest score. Guggino went 9.925, and Wilson and Brooks closed the meet with a 9.95 and 9.975., respectively.

In Week 9, the Wolverines will not have a chance to catch their breath. The team heads to Norman, Oklahoma to face an other-worldly No. 1 Oklahoma squad. Bev Plocki’s team will need everything dialed-in if they hope to leave Oklahoma with a win.

Upcoming matchup: Friday, March 1 @ 7:15 p.m. ET | Michigan @ Oklahoma – Live Stats

#14 Ohio State @ Big Fives Session I

Big Fives Score: 197.000 (2nd)

The Buckeyes fell 0.275 short of a share of the Big Ten Regular Season title. While they got heartbreakingly close to the trophy, the team should hold their heads high after posting their sixth 197+ total this season. Payton Harris had a fantastic day to earn the all-around (39.5) and bars (9.925) titles.

Highlight: Ella Hodges on floor (9.95). Hodges continues to take our breath away on floor. She found her best landings to date and performed with incredibly musicality en route to second place.

The Buckeyes struggled on beam, going sub-49 for only the second time in 2024. After wobbles from much of the lineup, Samara Buchanan fell in the anchor position (her first collegiate beam routine). Energy seemed low for the Buckeyes.

However, the team returned from their bye with a vengeance, posting a 49.475 on floor. Tory Vetter went 9.925 for third on the event, but Ella Hodges took everyone’s breath away. Hodges hit arguably her cleanest landings in 2024, posting a 9.95 to finish second overall.

After putting their competitors on notice in Rotation 2, the Buckeyes continued their momentum with a 49.375. The vault lineup had multiple highlights, including a near-stuck Yurchenko 1.5 from Harris (9.875), stuck full from Grimes (9.875), and a stuck flared full from Vetter (9.925). Mallory Gregory capped the rotation with another 9.875 for her stuck 1.5, proving to be a consistent lineup contributor.

The Buckeyes headed to bars in a tight race with Michigan State. While the team put up a strong challenge in a 49.200, they ultimately fell just short. Nicole Riccardi was gorgeous on bars once again, good for a 9.9. Harris clinched the all-around win with a 9.925, topping her team and the competition in the process.

Ohio State heads home to Columbus to host their Senior Night quad meet, taking on Illinois, Bowling Green, and Kent State. Coach Paulicivic’s team will look to stay in the 197 column and execute a more complete meet than we saw at Big Fives.

Upcoming matchup: Friday, March 1 @ 6:30 p.m. ET | Bowling Green, Illinois, Kent State @ Ohio State – Live Stats | Video (BIG+)

#15 Minnesota @ Big Fives Session I

Big Fives Score: 196.900 (3rd)

Minnesota collected wins over Nebraska and Rutgers after narrowly losing to Michigan State and Ohio State. Mya Hooten claimed the floor title, her fifth 9.95+ score in 2024.

Starting on your best event can often be a disadvantage, but not for Minnesota. The Gophers opened their meet with a whopping 49.450 on floor, led by Hooten’s massive 9.975. Hooten’s routine took the floor title and was followed by an important 9.9 from Gianna Gerdes. Minnesota’s floor squad looked confident and fearless throughout the rotation.

Highlight: Mya Hooten on floor (9.975). Minnesota’s floor queen was predictably incredible, nailing her three-pass routine for another near-perfect score and the Big Five title.

Unfortunately, the Gophers had trouble controlling their energy on vault, missing sticks on all of their vault landings. Their 49.025 was their second-lowest vault total in 2024. Sarah Moraw was the top Minnesota vaulter, earning a 9.85 for her flighty Yurchenko full with a small step back.

The Gophers were just two-tenths behind Michigan State heading into bars. While landing errors plagued part of the lineup, the team found their groove (and their sticks), posting the top bars total of the day (49.250). Hooten added her second 9.9+, followed by another big 9.9 from Ella Sirjord. Freshman Jordan Lyden brought Minnesota fans to her feet, nailing her dismount in the anchor position (9.875).

Coach Hansen’s team also posted the highest beam total of the five programs. The beam team was largely consistent despite a shocking mid-rotation fall from Gerdes. Katie Horak followed Gerdes’ fall with a gutsy 9.875, setting up her teammate, Sirjord, for a 9.875 of her own. After hitting beam, the Gophers had a final rotation bye and had to sit back and watch as Ohio State and Michigan State narrowly claimed the top spots.

Next up, the Gophers head to Idaho for a quad meet at Boise State, facing the Broncos, Washington, and UC Davis. The meet should present a strong opportunity for Minnesota to post a solid away score.

Upcoming matchup: Friday, March 1 @ 9 p.m. ET | Minnesota, UC Davis, Washington @ Boise State – Live Stats | Video

#21 Illinois @ Big Fives Session II

Big Fives Score: 196.850 (2nd)

The Fighting Illini matched their season high at Big Fives, collecting three wins over Penn State, Iowa, and Maryland. While they didn’t win their session, Illinois has tons to be excited about as they push through the remainder of the season.

Highlight: Lyden Saltness on bars (9.975). The freshman showed poise beyond her years, recording a career high in the Illini’s final routine of the day. Saltness hit a big Ray to Pak salto combination to open her routine.

The team had a modest start to the meet and truly came alive in the final two rotations. Beam was an impressive show of consistency, seeing no major errors and no scores below 9.80. Ruthuja Nataraj continued her hot streak on the event, posting a team-best 9.85 for her quick-paced and confident routine.

Floor had been the best event for nearly every team across both sessions, but the Illini surprisingly struggled. The team seemed jittery, with many going out of bounds or struggling with precision on their leap passes. Arielle Ward was immune to these issues, earning a 9.875. Mia Townes was also near-perfect in the anchor spot, posting an important 9.925 to keep the Illini in the hunt.

The team went lights-out on vault, posting the highest vault total of the day (49.300) – eclipsing their highest vault total this year by a whopping 0.225! Perhaps most impressively, the Illini only had one 10.0 start-value vault (to Michigan’s four) – a testament to their superior execution. All vaulters went 9.825 or better, with Alea Byrne earning a season-high 9.875 and Ward a career-high 9.9 for her Yurchenko 1.5.

The Illini had newfound energy heading into bars, and they capitalized on the excitement. The team earned a massive 49.400 for the highest bars total and a season high. Both Mia Takekawa and Amelia Knight found sticks on their double layouts for a pair of 9.9s, but Lyden Saltness brought the house down. The freshman put up a huge 9.975 to win the event and surpass her career high by a full tenth. Her stuck blind full to double tuck brought chants of “10” from her teammates, finishing the meet on a high note.

Illinois heads to Columbus to take on Ohio State, Kent State, and Bowling Green on Friday. There, the Illini will look to post a strong road score and spoil the Buckeyes’ party. Then they’ll return home to host Bowling Green on Sunday.

Upcoming matchups: 

#22 Penn State @ Big Fives Session II

Big Fives Score: 196.775 (3rd)

Penn State was closely edged by Illinois (196.850) to finish third in their session, defeating Iowa and Maryland. With their home crowd behind them on Alumni Weekend, the Lions had multiple positives to take away from their Big Five campaign.

Highlight: Amani Herring on vault (9.90). Amani continues to be a major asset on three events. Herring is a fantastic vaulter, showcasing a great block, clean form, and a square landing.

The Nittany Lions started their meet on floor, earning a strong 49.350. A trio of 9.875s bolstered the team score, with Alyssa Kramer continuing to impress, nailing her front double twist to punch front. Bella Salcedo closed the rotation with a 9.9, her third 9.9+ floor score this season.

While the team is often renowned for their two 10.0 start value Omelianchik vaults, Yurchenko fulls stole the show. Amani Herring and Maddie Johnston both nailed their high and clean fulls for a pair of 9.9s, both marking career highs. After a freak fall from Salcedo (missed her right hand on the block), Herring and Johnston’s scores were crucial and kept Penn State in the hunt.

On bars, the lineup was consistent, with no counting score being lower than a 9.8. After a relatively quiet meet for her, Ava Piedrahita earned a strong 9.875 for her routine. Piedrahita nearly hit her feet on her Pak salto, but she continued her routine with veteran-like poise to earn an important score.

Beam was the squad’s lowest total of the day, with multiple gymnasts suffering from wobbles and tight beam judging. Piedrahita was rock-solid in the leadoff spot, posting a 9.8. Salcedo redeemed her vault fall with a beautiful routine, nailing her standing front tuck and punch front full dismount for a 9.875, the Lion’s highest score.

Next up, the Lions get to stay at home as they host a quad meet, taking on West Virginia, Ball State, and Towson. Look for Sarah Brown’s squad to look to break the 197-mark for the second time this season.

Upcoming matchup: Friday, March 1 @ 6 p.m. ET | Penn State Quad Meet

#23 Nebraska @ Big Fives Session I

Final Score: 195.725 (4th)

Nebraska finished a disappointing fourth in their session, losing out on a spot in the Big Ten Championships’ evening session. The Huskers’ beam woes bogged down what would have otherwise been a strong outing.

Highlight: Emma Spence on bars (9.85). While it wasn’t her highest bars score, Spence’s bar-work is always a highlight. With a lovely Van Leeuwen and blind full to double tuck, she posted the highest Huskers score on the event.

Bars was impressively consistent to set the tone in Rotation 1. Although the team did not crack the 9.9-threshold, the first five athletes all records scores of 9.8 or better. Emma Spence and Emma Simpton’s spectacular routines (9.85s) received the loudest cheers, showing back-to-back stuck dismounts.

The Huskers’ good start unraveled after a rough outing on beam. The team couldn’t catch a break, weathering falls from Ayzhia Hall and Spence as well as a rough 9.475 from Isabel Sikon. Sophia McClelland led the team with a crucial 9.8 in the anchor spot to stop the bleeding.

After a 48.100 on beam, the Huskers put together an important rebound rotation on floor (49.375). Halle Rourke led the team with a career-high 9.9, nailing her front through to double tuck and double pike with finesse. Spence hit a 9.875 in an important redemption routine.

While they were looking to finish on a high note, the vault lineup struggled to find their landings. The team showed more power than was needed, with Spence and Martina Comin both bounding out of their high Yurchenko 1.5s for significant landing deductions.

The Huskers head back to Lincoln to host a quad meet on Sunday, welcoming Illinois State, North Carolina, and Southeast Missouri. Heather Brink’s squad will look to rebound from their disappointing Big Five showing with a strong meet at home.

Upcoming matchup: Sunday, March 3 @ 2 p.m. ET | Illinois State, North Carolina, S.E. Missouri @ Nebraska

Iowa @ Big Fives Session II

Final Score: 196.225 (4th)

The Hawkeyes posted a solid 196.225, partly thanks to a career-best all-around performance from sophomore star Karina Muñoz (39.550).

Iowa started strong on floor, earning a 49.325. All five counting scores were 9.825 or better, and Emily Erb led the team with a 9.9 for her dynamic tumbling, her third 9.9+ score this season. Hanna Castillo and Muñoz were both captivating in their routines, showcasing superior connection to their music for a pair of 9.875s.

Highlight: Karina Muñoz on bars (9.95). Muñoz had a career day at Big Fives, with one of her highlights coming from her huge effort on bars. She has a hop to piked Jaeger and clear-hip to immediate double layout.

The team moved to vault where they struggled to find clean landings. Muñoz had the strongest vault, posting a 9.825 for her full. Stick-queen Eva Volpe couldn’t quite find the perfect landing, taking a hop forward for a still solid 9.8. While her landing came up short, Alyse Karenbauer debuted a Yurchenko 1.5 with great height and form (watch out for this vault as the season progresses).

After an imperfect vault rotation, bars saw a team-low score despite highlights from multiple competitors. Ella Castellanos fell twice for a 8.425, and Iowa had to count a 9.300 after Marissa Rojas fell as well. However, Muñoz was at her best, nailing her piked Jaeger and clear hip to immediate stuck double layout (9.95). Her effort was a career high and earned second on the event.

Needing to rebound after the rough 48.575 bars rotation, the Hawkeyes were unstoppable on beam, earning a massive 49.350, the highest beam total that day. Iowa went 1–2 on beam, with Muñoz claiming another 9.9 and Ilka Juk earning a season high to win the event (9.925). Iowa’s lowest counting score was an impressive 9.825 (Volpe), helping them end the night on a positive note.

In Week 9, the Hawkeyes jet off to California to take on Sacramento State. The team will hope to put up another 196+ score on the West Coast.

Upcoming matchup: Sunday, March 3 @ 4 p.m. ET | Iowa @ Sacramento State – Live Stats | Video

Maryland @ Big Fives Session II

Final Score: 195.100 (5th)

Maryland unfortunately continued recent struggles, posting a low-195 to finish last in their session. The team showed potential throughout the meet, with multiple career highs, but were bogged down by uncharacteristic errors on the first two events.

Highlight: Maddie Komoroski on floor (9.95). Komoroski is one of the most beautiful floor workers in the country. With unrivaled toe point and clean twisting form, she is a joy to watch.

The meet started with disaster on bars. Falls from Lindsay Bacheler and Sierra Kondo left Maryland with no choice but to count an 8.8, resulting in their lowest bars total of 2024 (by nearly a full point). Solid 9.8s from Rhea LeBlanc and Victoria Gatzendorfer did their best to soften the blow.

Heading to beam, the Terps needed to pull out perfection to stay in the meet, but the nerves seemed to travel to beam. Errors from consistent contributors meant that three counting scores were sub-9.75, a far cry from what they needed to bounce back. Nonetheless, Josephine Kogler was clutch, earning a strong 9.875.

Maryland headed into a bye after beam, needing to regroup. The team roared back on floor, posting a season-high 49.425, injecting life into the team and the Terps’ fanbase. Taylor Rech had 9.875 in what would ultimately be a great day for the sophomore, followed by a predictably strong 9.925 from Alexa Rothenbuescher. Maddie Komoroski was finally rewarded for her exceptional dance, earning a career-high 9.95 to finish second overall.

The team followed their floor success with their second-highest vault total of 2024 (49.05). Rech stuck her Yurchenko full in the leadoff spot to continue the momentum (9.75), and Natalie Martin finally earned a long-deserved 9.9 to finish in the top two on vault.

Next up, the Terps return home to Maryland to host their quad meet on Senior Night, taking on George Washington, Central Michigan, and William & Mary. Maryland will want to put the past two performances behind them to show-out on Senior Night.

Upcoming matchups:

Rutgers @ Big Fives Session I

Final Score: 195.275 (5th)

The Scarlet Knights posted their fifth 195+ score this season at Big Fives. While they finished last in their session, Stephanie Zanella left with the balance beam title.

After a first-rotation bye, the team looked jittery, struggling with their floor landings to open the meet. Multiple athletes went out of bounds and incurred major landing deductions. Despite the issues, Emily Leese and Gabrielle Dildy proved resilient, adding a 9.85 and 9.875, respectively. Dildy’s score was a season high.

Highlight: Stephanie Zanella on beam (9.90). Zanella put forward one of her best beam routines of the season, hitting her triple series and unique arabesque skills.

The Knights rebounded from their slow start with a powerful vault rotation. Rachel Riley and Dildy both showed great height on their vaults. Leese hit her Yurchenko 1.5 with a small hop forward (9.875), good for fourth on the event.

Bars has been the team’s Achilles heel in 2024, and it was their lowest-scoring event at Big Fives. Much of the lineup struggled to go 9.7, and Olivia DiNovi suffered a freak-fall on her toe-on. Nonetheless, Avery Balser continued to prove her reliability on the event, posting a huge (and much-needed) 9.875. Balser has now gone 9.8+ on bars eight times this season – all but once.

Coach Salime-Beasley’s team finished on a positive note on beam, posting their second-best beam total this season and their only 49+ of the meet with a 49.05. While they incurred a fall from Katy Koopman, the remaining athletes recorded hits. Jackie Manifold posted a 9.85, followed by a spectacular event-winning routine from Stephanie Zannella, featuring a triple series and stuck aerial to tucked-1.5 dismount.

Next up, the Scarlet Knights head home to Piscataway to host a quad meet versus West Chester, Cornell, and Ursinus College. The Knights will not only look to win – they will aim to replicate their 196-performance from a couple weeks prior.

Upcoming matchup: Saturday, March 2 @ 2 p.m. ET | Cornell, Ursinus College, West Chester @ Rutgers – Live Stats | Video (BIG+)