Gymnastics readies for conference test

Freshman Michaela Romito grabs the bar while competing in the uneven bars during the Flip for a Cure meet against George Washington on Sunday, March 1, 2015.

Freshman Michaela Romito grabs the bar while competing in the uneven bars during the Flip for a Cure meet against George Washington on Sunday, March 1, 2015.

Megan McEldowney

The Kent State gymnastics team enters the 2015 Mid-American Conference Championship on Saturday with a home court advantage and All-MAC First Team freshman gymnast Rachel Stypinski.

Stypinski is the first freshman since 2008 to be named to the All-MAC First Team. She joins Alyssa Nocella (Bowling Green), Kylie Fagan and Halle Moraw (Central Michigan), Anna Willette (Eastern Michigan), and Jessi Buis (Western Michigan).

“We just have to get mentally tough and prepared for this upcoming week,” Stypinski said. “We’ve never lost a MAC Championship at home, and we aren’t about to make it the first time.”

The team is coming off a home meet win versus Ball State, as they achieved the fourth-highest team score in school history. With an overall score of 196.800, the Flashes dominated their competition throughout the entire meet.

Six personal records were set and six more were tied when the Flashes faced the Cardinals.  Taking first place honors during that meet were Stypinski (beam), freshman Ali Marrero (bars), senior Chelsea Drooger (vault) and Stypinski and sophomore Jordan Hardison on the floor. 

Stypinski tied both her personal records on beam (9.900) and floor (9.950). Hardison set her personal record on the floor with a 9.950, and Drooger tied for first on the vault with a 9.850. Meanwhile, sophomore Skyelee Lamano tied for sixth with a personal-record of 9.775. Marrero set two personal records, with a 9.900 on bars and 9.850 on beam, for second place.

“We are excited to host the MAC Championships,” assistant coach Craig Ballard said. “You only get to host it once every seven years. I know our seniors are really excited because it’s their last meet in the MAC Center. I feel like when we’re at home, we are really strong and really confident. We are ready to go.”

Central Michigan is favored to win the tournament, as they enter with a 11-4-1 record overall and a 5-1 record in the conference. The Flashes ended the regular season with a 6-7 record overall and a 2-4 mark in the conference. They are tied with Ball State, who is last in the full standings. The other teams that are competing Saturday are Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Bowling Green. 

“The gymnasts train very hard in practice,” coach Brice Biggin said. “We just need to go in there and focus like it is just another meet. This is the meet you look forward to all season. You try and want to be at your best for that meet. With it being at home, it’s special because it’s here only once every seven years. The expectation is that we want to go out and win it.”

After a loss at Bowling Green, the whole team is ready for this meet for many different reasons.

“Our meet at Bowling Green, we finished off with a 195,” Marrero said. “We wish we could’ve taken the win; we needed it. That meet is giving us more motivation to take home a championship.”

The MAC Championships start at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Contact Megan McEldowney at [email protected].