Michigan State gymnastics captures first Big Ten title in program history

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Peyton Skiver

The Big Ten title was decided by the very last routine on Saturday. 

“I’ve been working so hard and I’ve been in this position all year, so I knew what to do,” MSU junior Gabi Stephen said. “I looked to God and I prayed about it, and I was ready to go.” 

Every team had finished and all eyes were on Stephen, who hurt her toe earlier in the meet. A score of 9.775 or higher on the balance beam, resulted in an MSU victory. If not, Minnesota claimed the title. 

Tension filled Jenison Field House. 

MSU has an extensive history of falling short in the Big Ten Championships. The Spartans have watched in-state rival Michigan take the crown 27 times. Michigan State has finished second ten times with zero titles in the 41 years of the event.

The score flashed on a screen no bigger than a household television. Stephen got a 9.875. 

Michigan State won the Big Ten for the first time in program history. 

Screams. Hugs. Tears. 

“It’s hard to describe,” MSU head coach Mike Rowe said. “It’s, of course, amazing. It’s heartfelt.” 

The line to get in before the meet stretched down the street to enter a sold out Jenison Fieldhouse, even though men’s basketball and hockey were on the same night. 

“I’ve never seen Jenison like this,” junior Skyla Schulte said. 

Schulte became the first Spartan to win the Big Ten all-around title Saturday. She gave MSU 39.6 points, including a 9.95 on the floor, the best individual score of the day for Michigan State. 

She also beat out multiple fantastic gymnasts, including three-time Big Ten Gymnast of the Year Sierra Brooks from Michigan. 

“It means everything. Honestly, this has always been my dream, to come here,” Schulte said. “Being able to be a part of a history-making program is insane.”

In total, No. 9 MSU ended up with a 197.6, the highest number it has received when competing in the Big Ten Championships. Additionally, it is the ninth-best score in program history. 

No. 15 Minnesota finished second with a 197.5. No. 10 Michigan placed third with 197.225 points. 

The Spartans had the lead after all four rotations, but the lead was just 0.05 points over the Golden Gophers going into the final rotation. The 49.275 on the beam was the lowest output of the four rotations for MSU, but it was enough.

Before Stephen sealed the title, Schulte got a 9.9 and senior Baleigh Garcia earned a 9.925, making the needed score easier for Stephen to reach.  

MSU’s best output was on the floor, which was its weakest event, where they received 49.575 points. 

MSU received a 49.375 on both the vault and uneven bars. That was the best score for any team in either session on the vault and tied for the best on the bars. 

Rowe continued to emphasize landings as a point of emphasis after the meet. 

The postseason awaits the Spartans now. MSU learns where it will be going on Monday, March 25. Michigan State now aims to make a deep run in the NCAA Championships. 

“We’re not done yet,” Schulte said.

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