Kent State gymnastics ranked No. 20 in nation

Then a junior, Rachel Stypinski participates on the uneven bars during a meet against Ball State Friday, March 10, 2017. [FILE]

Libby Schrack

After a strong open to the conference season with a victory against Northern Illinois, Kent State gymnastics climbed two spots and is currently No. 20 in the nation with an average score of 195.488.

The Flashes are also ranked No. 7 on bars (49.138) and No. 10 on floor (49.050).

The team is currently 2-0 and just came off its first Mid-American Conference win last week.

The Flashes are keeping a close look at the rankings, hoping for a better seeding when the postseason begins.

“Our postseason (ranking) is based on how we are ranked during the regular season,” assistant coach Craig Ballard said. “So we are always paying attention to how we are ranked nationally.”

Kent State hopes to keep moving up in the rankings, but to do so, the team needs more difficult skill level on vault and more consistency on the balance beam, Ballard said.

Star senior Rachel Stypinski has led the Flashes this season.

Stypinski is currently ranked No. 9 in the nation right now on the all-around (39.400). She is also ranked No. 3 on the balance beam (9.900), No. 8 on floor (9.900) and No. 15 on the uneven bars (9.887). She also was named the MAC gymnast of the week two weeks in a row.

Stypinski is proud of her accomplishments, but she gives all the credit to her teammates, work ethic and dedication in practice.

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” she said. “My teammates push me though — to get better and push me to do what I have to do.”

The all-American showcases some of the hardest skills on the team, including her flawless bar set, acrobatic series on beam and power on the floor exercise. She still is looking to improve on one specific event:

“I definitely need to increase my vault,” Stypinski said. “I am working on a harder vault in practice, but I need to work on my consistency before I compete it.”

The team hopes to continue the confidence and success this weekend while taking on Ball State. Ballard feels confident in his Flashes.

“(On) bars, we need to just keep doing what we are doing,” Ballard said. “Beam is beam — some people say it is the make-or-break event. We are going to end on beam this weekend, and that is a great mental test. We have had a great week of training; we are ready to go out to someone else’s gym.”

Kent State’s next competition is against Ball State at 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, at Worthen Arena.

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