Stypinski shines, but Flashes struggle in MAC Championship


Kent State junior Rachel Stypinski competes on the uneven bars at a meet against West Virginia at the M.A.C. Center on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. Kent State lost 195.950-194.875.

Scott Lendak

Junior Rachel Stypinski stuck her landing off the balance beam Saturday and watched her coach, Brice Biggin, fist pump and yell in excitement before she won the all-around individual title at the Mid-American Conference Championship meet.

“The support from coach is amazing,” Stypinski said. “He knows what to say to get me determined and fired up. I couldn’t have asked for a better coach for my last four years of gymnastics.”

Stypinski scored a 39.500 in the all-around, which ties Marie Chase’s program record at the conference championship meet.

“It’s really great to win these individual medals and awards, but it would definitely be better to win as a team” Stypinski said. “Hopefully we can step it up at regionals and unite as a team, instead of focusing on individuals.”

Stypinski won individual titles in the balance beam and uneven bars. She received a 9.950 on beam, which set a program MAC Championship record. It was her third 9.950 of the season. She also tied her career-high on bars with a 9.900.

“Coming into this meet I was very refreshed,” Stypinski said. “I had a small injury last week, but we took it really easy at practice. My energy was way up, and even though my ankle still hurt, it was easy for me to push through.”

The Flashes came in sixth place out of seven teams with a score of 194.850. Before Saturday’s meet, Kent State had the best average score in the MAC at 195.250.

“I think after our floor routines we came out a little flat on vault,” Biggin said. “We had an injury to one of our kids, who we couldn’t use on vault, and we’re already thin over there. It put a lot of pressure on some of the kids.”

Kent State performed without junior Brooke Timko due to an injury she sustained during warm-ups. Biggin said it was hard to replace Timko on multiple events.

“Injuries caught up with us, and we lost a little bit of momentum when Brooke went down,” Biggin said. “You always hate to lose a kid during warm-ups because these kids care a great deal about each other, and when you see someone get hurt, it deflates you a little bit.”

Senior Skyelee Lamano said without Timko, the team was at a disadvantage from the start.

“We’ve already had a lot of bumps and bruises this season, so it was just another thing we had to deal with,” Lamano said. “We tried to come out with a better attitude and just know that we have people who can pick up the team. It was just sad to see a girl like Brooke, who has so much heart for this team, go through something serious like that.”

Kent State received a 47.750 on vault, their worst score on the season. Three Flashes fell in the event.

“When there is an early fall on an event, everyone gets tight,” Biggin said. “We try to tell the kids to make good mistakes opposed to bad mistakes. If you take a step forward, you lose a tenth. If you land on your butt, you lose seven tenths. Unfortunately, today we made bad mistakes on vault, and it really came back to haunt us.”

Sophomore Kennedy Plude finished third on beam with a career-high 9.900.

“We have two weeks to get healthy for regionals,” Biggin said. “The nice thing is that we have another meet, and we know that. Unfortunately, meets like this the do happen. It’s disappointing when it happens, but it happens to every team. We have to move on and really focus on doing a much better job at regionals and hope that we can make something special happen.”

The Flashes will find out where they compete at NCAA Regionals on Sat., April 1 during the NCAA Selection Show, which airs on at 4 p.m. on Mon., March 20.

Scott Lendak is the gymnastics reporter, contact him at [email protected]