Kent State gymnastics stays focused, wins on the road

Elise Kogelnik

Music from Central Michigan University’s floor exercise routines filled McGuirk Arena Sunday, but the Kent State University gymnastics team only heard encouragement from its fans.

The Flashes kept their focus as they worked to clinch the meet on the balance beam. Their team score of 48.875 on the rotation made it official – they had defeated Central Michigan on the road. The Kent State team out-scored the Chippewas, its rivals, 195.325-194.550. This victory allowed the Flashes to remain undefeated in the Mid-American Conference.

Coach Brice Biggin said he is proud of Kent State’s ability to hold its composure among 674 cheering fans and loud music.

“It’s always tough away from home because you have to hit beam,” Biggin said. “There’s a ton of pressure on our (gymnasts) on beam, and they handled the pressure just unbelievably well. If I had to say one event they hit really well tonight, I would have to say it was beam.”

Sophomore Rachel Stypinski took first in the event at 9.825. Sophomores Brooke Timko and Ali Marrero tied for second place on the balance beam at 9.775 alongside freshman Kennedy Plude. 

Sophomore Michaela Romito said she is proud of the Flashes’ performance on the balance beam.

“I think our beam team did a really good job of just bringing home the meet,” Romito said. Finishing on beam is really tough, especially at a meet like this where it’s really loud and the other team is on floor. I think our beam team did a really great job of staying within themselves and bringing home that win for us.”

Biggin said the team’s focus on itself allowed it to win the meet tonight.

“The more we kept going and hitting routines and when (Central Michigan) struggled and fell a little bit, (the Kent State gymnasts) just really focused and paid attention to themselves,” Biggin said. “Not what was going on with the other team. I think that was really one of the keys to us being successful tonight.”

The Flashes also found success on the floor exercise. Stypinksi tied Taylor Bolender of Central Michigan for first on the event with 9.900 points. Junior Jordan Hardison tied for third at 9.850 and senior Nicolle Eastman tied for fifth at 9.800.

Eastman, a Michigan native, said she enjoyed competing in her home state one last time.

“I had so many friends and family come from home – friends I hadn’t seen since high school and family I hadn’t seen in so long. It’s just kind of crazy to think that was the last time I’m ever competing in Michigan. It was a bittersweet feeling, but it was so incredible to see everyone there cheering on the whole team.”

Sophomore Brooke Timko led the Flashes on vault with a score of 9.750 and a fourth place finish.

Central Michigan took the top three spots on the uneven bars. Kent State’s Romito took fourth place on the event with a season-high 9.825.

Stypinksi, who followed Romito at 9.775 on the uneven bars, said the Flashes entered the meet with a plan to win.

“We won against Central Michigan at their home and their senior night,” Stypinksi said, “which was just double icing on the cake. We knew going into the meet that they were conference rivals, and we knew, coming out, one of us had to win. We came in and did what we had to do.”

Biggin said the team looks forward to finishing their conference season in the M.A.C. Center on Friday.

“We’ve got one MAC meet left, and it’s at home,” Biggin said. “The (gymnasts) know what it means. We’re really excited about the opportunity to compete at home on Friday for the MAC championship. But we need people there. We need people to come out and support the team.”

The Flashes will take on Eastern Michigan University at 7 p.m. Friday at Flip for the Cure.

Elise Kogelnik is a sports reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].