LIVE BLOG: Big Ten Championship Session I with No. 14 Nebraska, No. 28 Penn State, No. 49 Michigan State and No. 56 Rutgers

Championship weekend has arrived! I’m here at the State Farm Center in Champaign with the lovely (other) Emily to bring you all of the action. Look for her excellent photos from both sessions in the next few days.

Nebraska, Penn State, Michigan State and Rutgers are competing in the early session. These four teams landed here because they finished in fourth or fifth in their respective Big Five meets last weekend. It is surprising to see Nebraska and Penn State here, but keep in mind that a team from the early session can still win the championship—Michigan has done so before. Scoring tends to be a little tighter early, but Nebraska is known to be one of the strongest teams in the conference and could benefit from a little name recognition bump here. That said, Big Ten scoring has been on the stricter side all year, so don’t expect huge totals from anyone.

If last weekend’s Big Fives are any indication, nerves are running high throughout the conference. Beam was a difference maker for teams in both meets, so keep a close eye on that event today. Nebraska counted falls on bars and beam, and eliminating those mistakes will be key. The Huskers did not seem mentally prepared: Mistakes from veterans snowballed and morale was low. A better meet here will require them to step up the mental game. Nebraska could very well outscore Michigan—the Huskers won the regular season matchup against the Wolverines—but it will take perfected vault landings, eliminating falls and a lot of focus for the Huskers to challenge from the early session.

Penn State also has the ability to make many of the teams in the later session nervous. The Nittany Lions are ranked higher than both Maryland and Iowa and just behind Illinois. They could easily place above all three teams with a hit. The mental game is also key for this team. Briannah Tsang had a tough night at Big Fives, and if she is off again, the rest of the team needs to step up. Penn State landed the ideal rotation draw here, starting on vault and finishing on floor, so look to see if it can capitalize on the home order feel.

This is the end of the season for Michigan State and Rutgers. The Spartans and Scarlet Knights will not advance to regionals, so this championship is about hitting a strong final meet. MSU has battled injuries throughout the year and relied on many freshmen, which has led to a tumultuous season. However, the Spartans are capable of some very strong routines; keep an eye on Lea Mitchell in the all around, as well as Hailee Westney on bars. Rutgers has also battled some injuries and inconsistency all season. The Knights’ season high is a 194.800, so look for them to push for a 195 here. Makenzey Shank was out of lineups last week: She is a senior, so expect her to be back in for her final meet if she is physically able. Her bars and beam are highlights.

An exciting note: For the second time ever, the championship is on podium! Rutgers started the trend last year, and Illinois is carrying it on here. The last time Illinois hosted, in 2009, the meet was held in Huff Hall, the smaller venue in Champaign. Moving to the State Farm Center and adding a podium shows a lot of progress for the conference over the past decade.

March in is underway! Here we go!

Rotation 1: PSU vault, MSU bars, RU beam, Neb floor

The live score page still has men’s scores up from last year, so we’ll see when that gets going. I’ll update with in-arena scores if I can get them in the meantime!

PSU is in GORGEOUS new(?) leos. Very sparkly.

Alright friends, I have an EXCELLENT view of vault, and…sort of nothing else. Bars view is okay, but I can’t see much of floor. Excuse me if floor and beam notes are brief! I will have a LOT to say about vault amplitude, though.

Sabrina Garcia (PSU): FTY, low chest but STUCK. Nice.

Abbie Epperson (Neb.): Front 2/1, great landing. Last pass: rudi low landing and step forward.

Lea Mitchell (MSU): Toe hand + Tkatchev, nice. Bail hand.

Alissa Bonsall (PSU): FTY, nice height, just a big off a low chest.

Michelle Amoresano (RU): Bhs loso, leg up but stays on.

Tessa Jaranowski (MSU): Hect mount, Blind + piked Jaeger, nice.

Kynsee Roby (Neb.): Full-in, low chest but nice in the air. Really low landing on second pass but stays on her feet. Strong final landing.

Tori Huehn (MSU): Clear hip hand + Tkatchev between the bars, nice. Hop on double tuck.

Shannon Ferrell (RU): Side aerial, small check. She moves confidently. Bhs loso solid.

Kourtney Chinnery (PSU): FTY, big bound back.

Anna Gamelo (MSU): Bail hand, some bent arms. Full in STUCK.

Catelyn Orel (Neb.): Double pike, some knees. Switch side + popa, great splits! GREAT last pass.

Gianna LaGuardia (PSU): FTY small pike, but stuck. Good vault.

Belle Huang (RU): Bhs loso, small check.

Anne Maxim (MSU): HUGE Tkatchev, some toes. Stuck dismount.

Briannah Tsang (PSU): Y1.5, small hop back, nice in the air.

Grace Williams (Neb.): Double pike, solid, just feet. Front lay rudi, tiny pike down. Double tuck, excellent landing. Great set.

The Nebraska fans here are LOUD.

Hailee Westney (MSU): Huge Ray, pak, great lines. Almost stuck dismount.

Erin McLaghlan (RU): Bhs loso, small check. Bhs + tucked 1.5 dismount, good landing.

Lauren Bridgens (PSU): Y1.5, she pulled it out! big step to the side, maybe two.

Sienna Crouse (Neb.): Front 2/1 + punch front, solid. Strong combo pass. Nice amplitude in jumps, couldn’t see feet for rotation. Rudi loso last pass no problems at all. Nebraska is here to play. Crowd chanting “10”.

Libby Groden (RU): Bhs loso, bent arms bhs, and a check. Beat + switch + switch, pretty.

Jennie Laeng, a Nebraska alumna, is right behind me cheering her head off. Stuck gainer full off the side.

Megan Schweihofer (Neb.): Full-in, leg sep but excellent chest up landing. Front lay rudi good height. Tour jete + wolf full, looked like her leg was a little low on the wolf.

Makenzey Shank (RU): Liukin, lovely. Great control! Bhs loso no problems. She’s the only routine and loving the spotlight. Smiling. Switch + sheep, solid. Cat + gainer full, stuck. Excellent anchor routine. 9.8 hmmmmmmm.

After 1: Neb. 49.2, MSU 49.1, PSU 48.75, RU 48.6

Nebraska looks much more confident than last week. Good but not GREAT start. MSU was great on bars, hitting handstands and landings. PSU had some problems with steps, but vault was clean otherwise. Rutgers is off to a solid start and will be happy if every event goes this well.

Rotation 2: Neb vault, PSU bars, MSU beam, RU floor

Roby (Neb.): FTY low chest and a small hop forward.

Libby Groden (RU): Missed this one!

Big Tkachev. Bail hand loose. Great last handstand. Hop on dismount.

Williams (Neb.): FTY, hands forward on table and not great distance, but she makes it around.

Tristan Brown (MSU): Really low chest on straddle 3/4.

Ava Verdeflor (PSU): Blind + Tkatchev, nice. Great toes!

Ferrell (RU):  Double tuck, big lunge but fine.

Epperson (Neb.): FTY, good height and distance, I think they’ll give her a stick.

Kristen Politz (PSU): Jaeger, nice. Double front, some cowboy but great landing, stick with turn to judges to cover step.

Molly Hoerner-O’Malley (MSU): Bhs loso, no problems. Think I missed a fall.

Schweihofer (NU): FTY, HUGE, tiny tiny hop.

Riahannah Ali (RU): Front through to double tuck, nice landing. Double pike, another strong landing. She’s VERY happy with this one.

Crouse (NU): Y1.5, pretty. Tiny hop forward.

Bridgens (PSU): Shaposh, bail hand solid. Great handstands. Giant full double tuck stuck. Good recovery from vault.

Houchin (NU): Y1.5, just gorgeous, small controlled step forward.

Ashley Beatty (MSU): Front toss + back tuck, solid.

Garcia (PSU): Hect mount, some knees on cast. Blind + piked Jaeger and she falls. Stuck dlo.

Shank (RU): Huge double pike, big knee bend. Great performance quality. Switch ring + switch side nice.

Mitchell (MSU): Bhs bhs loso, small bobble. Side aerial + full, small hop.

Tsang (PSU): Hect mount. Big Jaeger + bail. Dlo went straight up and she had a low chest on the landing. Otherwise nice routine.

Huang (RU): FHS 2/1, not quite around. I don’t think they’ll give it to her after the great ones we saw from Nebraska. Switch ring + tour jete, not a lot of height on the tour jete, but good splits. Fhs rudi, better rotation.

Westney (MSU): Double turn, absolutely solid, the crowd appreciates it. Bhs loso, solid. She is focused. Side aerial small bobble but she covers it. Switch + split nice. Gainer layout off the end stuck. Really solid routine.

Jenna Rizkalla (RU): Rudi loso, really pretty. Rudi last pass some foot shuffles on landing, I don’t think she stepped out.

After 2: Nebraska 98.35, Rutgers 97.65, PSU 97.575, MSU 97.225

Nebraska is looking much better tonight. Rutgers looks good on floor. Some tough landings but overall the Scarlet Knights look prepared as a team. MSU had some wobbles on beam but Westney is an absolute highlight. Penn State struggled on bars. That is usually a great event for the Nittany Lions, and coming back will be tough, especially on beam which is hit or miss for the team.

Rotation 3: RU vault, Neb. bars, PSU beam, MSU floor

Groden (RU): FTY, good height, just a bit of a low chest. Her team loves it!

Orel (Neb.): Excellent handstands. Bail hand a little loose. Dlo, just a foot shuffle.

Garcia (PSU): Hitch + switch side, solid. Gainer full stuck.

Brittini Chappell (MSU): Archy combo pass, but stays on her feet.

Rizkalla (RU): Ilg! Love love love. Stays on her feet! She sat it in the touch. Just a hop forward.

Roby (Neb.): Hect mount. Blind + Jaeger, nice catch position. Pak. Gorgeous DLO, just a small hop.

Bridgens (PSU): Loooong wait for scores. Small bobble on front aerial (?). Big correction on bhs loso. Pretty dismount.

Huehn (MSU): Front full front lay, little slide out of it. Rudi, nice.

Sophia Atienza (RU): Tucked Tsuk half, nice landing.

Schweihofer (Neb.): Huge Jaeger + bail, nice. Stuck dismount.

Politz (PSU): Bhs layout two feet, big wobble. Chest down on switch side(?).

Hoerner-O’Malley (MSU): SEE BELOW

Michelle Amoresano (RU): Yhalf, twisted a little early and a bound forward.

Epperson (Neb.): Great handstands. Bling + Jaeger, caught a little far but nice. Bail hand. DLO just a small hop back.

Huang (RU): FTY piked down, but stuck. Team jumps on the podium for hugs.

Houchin (Neb.):Bail hand nice. Giant full + double tuck, stuck. Great recovery from last week. Crowd screaming for a 10.

Ali (RU): FTY good distance, piked a bit.

Tess McCracken (PSU): Wolf full, nice. Split + double stag, tiny correction. Bhs + gainer full off the side, deep landing.

Crouse (Neb.): Hop change + weiler + half, nice. Stuck dismount. Great rotation after last week.

Tristan Brown – CORRECTION Hoerner-O’Malley (MSU): Double pike, little low but lands well. Nice combo pass. Double tuck, good landing.

Tsang (PSU): Standing loso loso. Nice. Switch side small correction. Bhs 1/1 + full, nice.

Drew Hendershot CORRECTION Tristan Brown (MSU): Double pike, great landing, chest up. Low chest on double tuck.

Mason Hosek (PSU): Front aerial small bobble + beat jump. Bhs loso solid. Cat leap gainer full off the side stuck, nice.

Drew Hendershot (MSU): Double pike good height low chest and bounces out a touch. Front lay + rudi, little wild in the twist.

Mitchell (MSU): Double tuck, great height. Fhs rudi loso, nice, some legs. Switch sides + popa + popa + double stag, great height throughout those jumps. Double pike, falls out of it a touch but covers with the lunge.

After 3: Neb. 147.725, RU 146.2, PSU 146.1, MSU 146.075

Nebraska looks much better this week than last week. The Husker social media squad sitting next to me and mentioned that it was the team’s best bars outing this season. PSU continues to struggle. The Nittany Lions look sluggish. Rutgers is having a great day, and is on track for a season high. MSU was decent on floor, but just didn’t have the amplitude or landings to notch a huge total.

Rotation 4: MSU vault, RU bars, Neb. beam, PSU floor

Beatty (MSU): FTY low chest and  big step forward.

Huang (RU): Bail hand short and loose.

Roby (Neb.): Hit series. Side aerial + full, nice landing. Better than she warmed that up.

Politz (PSU): 2.5 great landing.

Jaranowski (MSU): Handspring pike, big step to the side and off the landing mat.

Rachel Ley (RU): Missed  a skill and had to re=cast. Nice DLO.

Crouse,  (Neb.): Switch + split half, nice. Front toss, and she falls.

Alissa Bonsall (PSU): Strong double pike. Double tuck, low chest.

Huehn (MSU): FTY, low chest, I think her hand hit the mat?

Groden (RU): Good last handstand. DLO, a few steps back.

Schwehofer (Neb.):

Peyton Schuller (PSU): Fhs front 2/1, good landing.

Anna Gamelo (MSU): FTY, good landing, just hops to the side. Hands were very far back on the table.

Amoresano (RU): Big Geinger, bail a little loose.

Schweihofer (Neb.): Pretty presence on the beam. Calm. RO 2/1 dismount. Gorgeous, great landing.

Maxim (MSU): Tsuk half, lovely! Small hop forward.

Shannon Farrell (RU): Pretty handstands, shaposh nice. Big double tuck, just hop straight up.

Houchin (Neb.): Bhs loso, solid. Pretty extension. Great double full dismount, crowd loves it.

Garcia (PSU): Big double tuck. Huge performance quality, from her toes to her face. Great set.

Bridgens (PSU): Double tuck, great chest up landing. FHS front full front lay, nice.

Mitchell (MSU): FTY, nice, just a step to the side.

Shank (RU): Blind, barely gets it there, Jaeger. Stuck double front, great chest position on landing.

Danielle Breen (Neb.): One hand bhs loso, solid. Good landing on sheep, knees apart in the air. Good landing on dismount.

Tsang (PSU): Piked full-in, huge, chest a touch low. Solid combo pass. Massive double pike to close. Solid.

Williams (Neb.): Bhs loso loso, completely solid. Hitch + switch. She has the spotlight to herself here. Side aerial + full, stuck. Great anchor routine. Much improved from last week.

FINAL: Neb. 196.95, PSU 195.5, RU 194.4, MSU 194.275

Nebraska will be pleased with that recovery from last week. The Huskers looked much improved all around. Depending on how scores go in the next session, a 196.95 could put some pressure on Michigan. PSU came back strong on floor, and benefitted from some last-rotation gifts, though overall scores weren’t absurd. Rutgers had some struggles on bars, but had a strong meet overall, and though MSU had struggles on beam, the Spartans should be pleased with their showing here. I believe this is the first meet that they haven’t vaulted a Yurchenko layout in quite awhile, which is a win in and of itself.

Stay tuned tonight to see if Nebraska’s score can hold up agains the Session II teams!

Event Winners [of this session, tbd overall after Session II:
VT: Houchin, 9.9
UB: Crouse, 9.925
BB: Williams, 9.9
FX: Schweihofer, 9.95
AA: Schweihofer, 39.525

Live blog by Emily Minehart