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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Headin’ south: Huskies to battle Lindenwood, Fisk at Tennessee meet

Gymnastics to end road spell at Tennessee Collegiate Classic
Dena Martz
Junior Isabella Sissi performs her routine on the uneven parallel bars during Saturday’s meet against Bowling Green State University at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio. NIU gymnastics is set to compete at the Tennessee Collegiate Classic on Friday. (Courtesy of Dena Martz)

DeKALB – A stone’s throw away from “Music City,” a team of trained performers clad in color and sparkle will take the floor with the same objective as every event before: shake the nerves, woo the critics and achieve a hit.

But there’s a catch: no chords will need to be played and no lyrics sung.

NIU gymnastics (1-2-1, 1-0 MAC) wraps up its three-meet road spell to open the season with a southbound trip to Friday’s Tennessee Collegiate Classic in Lebanon, Tennessee – about 30 miles east of downtown Nashville. 

The seven-team meet will be split into two sessions. NIU will compete in the first session against Lindenwood University (3-1) and Fisk University (1-2) at 2 p.m. CT. The remaining four teams – Ball State University, Kent State University, Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater – are scheduled to compete in the second session at 7 p.m. CT.

Coming off a tone-setting road victory over Bowling Green State University in Saturday’s MAC opener, the Huskies look to continue reducing the disparity between practices and meets.

“We’re just driving each day to get closer to who we are at practice,” said NIU gymnastics head coach Sam Morreale. “Even though we got better last week, I still feel like we were a little nervous.”

From the checks and bobbles on the balance beam to stumbly landings, Morreale believes NIU’s latest miscues are easily correctable.

“It’s just a matter of trying to find that sweet spot of competing how we practice and not trying to make it different or better,” Morreale said. “We are a good team. We got a lot of good athletes. They do a lot of good gymnastics. They just have to do that.”


Friday’s meet will also serve as NIU’s final go-round against an old foe and an introduction to a first-time opponent.

NIU and Lindenwood will meet for the final time Friday as the latter program faces discontinuation. In a Dec. 1 news release, Lindenwood announced women’s gymnastics as one of 10 sports teams scheduled for elimination by the end of the Spring 2024 season.

“You hate when you see schools cut programs,” Morreale said. “It’s a very real fear for a lot of us in the small Olympics programs … I think we all can see our own programs in that program.”

Nonetheless, the Huskies intend to resolve their “unfinished business” with Lindenwood after placing behind the Lions in the Mizzou Invitational on Jan. 6.

“I’m not going to let them win because it’s their final season or whatnot,” Morreale said. “But it’s on us to have a good enough meet to beat them; they’re a good team.”


Meanwhile, NIU will compete against the Fisk Bulldogs for the first time ever. Fisk launched its NCAA women’s gymnastics program a season ago, becoming the first historically Black college or university to do so.

Fisk scored a 189.95 to place third at a Jan. 12 quad meet hosted by the University of Florida – the former’s only action of the season-to-date.

Charged with fending off a Lindenwood team fighting for an honorable send-off season and a young Fisk program trying to make its mark, NIU will have to be prepared for anything.

Competition is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. CT Friday at the Farm Bureau Expo Center in Lebanon, Tennessee. 

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