Leaving their legacy: Five Kent State gymnasts brace for Senior Night

Kent State senior gymnast Brooke Timko competes on bars. [FILE]

Libby Schrack

Having heart and being a performer, hard worker, leader and all-American are all characteristics a coach looks for in a gymnast.

Kent State coach Brice Biggin has found those qualities and more in five important gymnasts celebrating Senior Night on Friday: Brooke Timko, Ali Marrero, Alyssa Quinlan, Michaela Romito and Rachel Stypinski.

Brooke Timko

“Timko has more heart than probably any kid I have ever coached,” Biggin said. “She would rather cut off a limb than not compete.”

Biggin said he began recruiting Timko because of her high skill level and consistency while doing club gymnastics in high school.

“She has had shoulder surgeries and multiple injuries but still pushes to compete,” Biggin said. “That is something the younger gymnasts see, and it inspires the other athletes.”

Timko began gymnastics at four years old and is from Girard, Ohio. She trained at Olympic Dreams Gymnastics and is a sports administration major.

“I picked Kent because of the coaches and atmosphere,” Timko said.

Timko loved the support she felt as soon as she walked on campus for the first time and just knew Kent was going to feel like home to her.

The gymnast currently competes on bars but hopes to do vault at the Mid-American Conference Championships.

“I love the team aspect of competing for Kent,” Timko said. “Even if something goes on in my life and it is not gymnastics-related, my team is still always there for me.”

Timko couldn’t place one single favorite memory while at Kent State, but she said she loves traveling every weekend with her teammates.

“Traveling every weekend with my team and making tons of memories with them is my favorite part,” Timko said.

Ali Marrero

Biggin holds a lot of pride in Marrero, and he said her showmanship and performance is hard to not watch.

“The way she goes out there and performs is something you look for as a coach,” Biggin said. “Her confidence isn’t something that goes unnoticed.”

Biggin began recruiting Marrero because her home gym had a reputation of breeding quality gymnasts. He said he could tell she was a special performer from day one.

“We wanted her for floor, bars and beam.” Biggin said. “Her vault was good, but she faced some injuries which made it difficult.”

Marrero is from Farmingville, New York, and she began gymnastics at three years old at Gold Medal Gymnastics. Her major is public health, and she currently competes on bars and beam for the Flashes.

“I personally picked Kent State because of the coaches,” Marrero said. “The team was just so welcoming, and it just sounded like home.”

Marrero said the best part about being a gymnast for the Flashes is the team atmosphere. She said the group has fun, and they are proud of representing Kent State.

“It is just so much more than gymnastics when competing here,” Marrero said with a smile.

Marrero’s favorite memory was winning the MAC championship her freshman year.

“We won it at home, and there were just so many mixed emotions,” she said. “The crowd was huge, and it still carries on to be my best memory.”

Alyssa Quinlan

Biggin couldn’t help but use the words “hard worker” when describing Quinlan.

“Alyssa’s been a kid who came in a little bit behind,” Biggin said. “She came from a smaller gym with not as much expectation on herself, but through hard work and persistency, she has blossomed.”

Biggin was impressed with her improvement from past years to this season.

“She is a great story of someone who came in without the skills necessary to compete, but through hard work, she now competes on two events,” Biggin said.

Technically listed as a junior on Kent State’s website, Quinlan is graduating early and attending physical therapy school at the University of Indianapolis next year.

Quinlan is from Granger, Indiana, and began gymnastics when she was three years old. Her home gym was Gymnastics Michiana, and she is an exercise science major.

“I picked Kent more for my major,” Quinlan said. “A lot of schools don’t have exercise science, and I also really liked the coaches.”

Quinlan currently does beam and floor for the Flashes. Quinlan loves the atmosphere of being a Kent State gymnast.

“Everyone comes together,” Quinlan said. “We’re just always cheering each other on and supporting each other.”

Quinlan’s favorite memory was from this year during a meet at Central Michigan. She stepped up and competed on beam for the first time at an away meet and hit a great routine.

“It was the best beam routine I have ever done,” Quinlan said. “And it was even better because it was against our rival.”

Michaela Romito

Every team looks for a positive leader, and Romito fills that role consistently for the Flashes with no questions asked.

Biggin looks to Romito to keep spirits up for the other athletes, and since day one, she has been that person.

Romito began doing gymnastics since she was just one year old at Gymnastics World in Broadview Heights in Cleveland.

Romito had great success in high school gymnastics. She competed for Brecksville-Broadview Heights and won four team state titles.

The senior currently competes on bars and floor, but has dabbled in vault in past competitions. She is the lead-off performer on the floor exercise with a fun and consistent routine.

Romito is a nursing major and was academic All-MAC both her sophomore and junior years.

Rachel Stypinski

Stypinski has been nothing short of a powerhouse for Biggin throughout her four years at Kent.

Stypinski is from Boyertown, Pennsylvania, and she also started gymnastics at a very young age at Silvia’s Gymnastics.

Stypinski competes in the all-around for the Flashes and has been a starter since her freshman year. During that first year, ahe was named MAC specialist of the year and co-freshman of the year. She also individually qualified for regionals on balance beam and floor her freshmen year.

Her sophomore year she was named an All-MAC first team selection, and her junior year she was named MAC gymnast of the year. She was titled the all-around champion at last year’s MAC Championships. This year, she posted a career high on bars and in the all-around.

Stypinski has left her marks on the Kent State record books, as she is tied for the third highest all-around score in school history and is currently ranked 15th in the nation in the all-around.

Stypinski has earned five MAC gymnast of the week honors so far this season. She is a criminology and justice studies major.

The group will celebrate Senior Night — and their last ever home meet — at 7 p.m. Friday at the M.A.C. Center during the Kent State Tri-Meet against No. 18 George Washington and Temple.

Libby Schrack is a sports reporter. Contact her at [email protected].