Gymnastics earns regular season title

Spectators fill the stands of the M.A.C. Center at the Flip for the Cure gymnastics meet on Friday, March 4, 2016 

Elise Kogelnik

Kent State sophomore Rachel Stypinski rang the victory bell Friday night signifying an undefeated season for the university’s gymnastics team in the Mid-American Conference.

The Flashes endured a few falls and stayed strong to defeat Eastern Michigan University 195.025-194.025 at their annual Flip for the Cure meet, which raises money for those affected by breast cancer.

Coach Brice Biggin said the Kent State team’s positive attitude and focus allowed them to overcome mistakes and win.

“I am really proud of them,” Biggin said. “When you have that kind of emotion and that kind of adrenaline – and they knew what they were competing for – it’s really easy to give up or to start feeling sorry for yourself. I told them when we went over to beam, ‘This thing is far from over.’”

The crowd roared and held up signs showing a perfect score when Stypinski stuck her dismount from the balance beam, proving Biggin right. One judge agreed with the fans and gave Stypinski 10 points on the event. Her score averaged out to a season-high 9.950, earning her a first place finish.

Stypinski said she was happy to earn 9.950 points for her team, but she strives to get two 10s Sunday. Sophomore Ali Marrero finished third on the balance beam with 9.850 points.

Stypinski tied Kendall Valentin of Eastern Michigan for first on the uneven bars at 9.875. The Flashes’ sophomore Brooke Timko followed with 9.775 points and a third place finish.

Senior Nicolle Eastman tied Eastern Michigan’s Valentin for first place on vault with 9.800 points. Timko and freshman Dara Williams tied for fourth at 9.750.

Junior Skyelee Lamano said she is proud of the way the Flashes ended the meet.

“It was great to finish off (on the floor exercise) because floor has always been our greatest event,” Lamano said. “It was so awesome when (Stypinski) stuck that routine and we were all chanting – it was just the greatest feeling on earth.”

Stypinski took first in the floor exercise at 9.925. Juniors Jordan Hardison and Lamano followed in second, each with 9.875 points. Junior Samantha Gordon tied four gymnasts from Eastern Michigan for fourth at 9.800.

Timko, who worked with junior Milena Fabry to organize this year’s Flip for the Cure meet, said she is happy to see her dedication pay off.

“I was here (earlier) in the morning trying to set up,” Timko said, “and all of the Kent State soccer girls helped setup. (The M.A.C. Center) looked amazing. Everything looked so good. The hard work paid off, the stress paid off and I’m just so proud of how everything turned out.”

Fans purchased Flip for the Cure shirts, entered basket raffles and played games to raise money for COSACARES, a grant started by Dr. Kristine Slam, a certified surgeon with the Metropolitan Surgery division of Central Ohio Surgical Associates (COSA).

Slam, who competed on the Kent State gymnastics team from 1995 to 1999, said the grant helps breast cancer patients pay for things that they can no longer afford due to the high cost of cancer treatment.

“(The patient) can use the grant for whatever they need,” Slam said. “A lot of times when people are in cancer treatment, they spend a lot of money on their treatment and everything else falls by the wayside. People lose their houses, they lose their cars or they get their electricity shut off. Whatever they need for their treatment, they can use this grant for. That’s what makes this grant a little bit different; some grants only give money for medical stuff.”

About 10 people have used the COSACARES grant so far and Slam said she looks forward to helping more patients with this year’s Flip for the Cure donation. Slam said 50 to 70 percent of the grant comes from events like Friday’s gymnastics meet.

“I think being able to give back, especially for young people, (is important).” Slam said. “You’re only on campus for four or five years and (it’s important to realize) there’s a life outside of gymnastics. Ultimately, cancer affects everyone – especially breast cancer.”

The Kent State team will compete against Cornell University and honor its senior gymnasts in the M.A.C. Center at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Elise Kogelnik is the gymnastics beat reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].