Gymnastics wins MAC Championship at M.A.C. Center

 Kent State gymnasts cheer as their teammate lands a dismount off the vault during a meet against Central Michigan on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015.

Jimmy Miller

From the first day of practice, Kent State coach Brice Biggin told his young squad that no team has ever lost the Mid-American Conference title when the final meet was in the M.A.C. Center.

Months later, Biggin embraced his team as the Flashes, in an underdog turn of events, ended their season atop the conference on Saturday. Just a week before, they were only ahead of Ball State amongst all teams in the field.

“I’m incredibly proud of this team,” Biggin said. “We knew they had it in them; we certainly had a lot of confidence in them. It was a matter of them believing in themselves. I couldn’t be…happier for them.”

With a total 196.375 score, Kent State edged Central Michigan, who entered the tournament as the frontrunners to take the title, by a tenth of a point. The Chippewas have won the last five conference tournaments, as Kent State’s conference championship drought started after their win in 2009.

Three Flashes — sophomore Skyelee Lamano, junior Rebecca Osmer and freshman Rachel Stypinski — earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team. It was Osmer’s 9.900 score on the bars and first-place finish to clinch the title at the meet, and Lamano and Stypinski combined for two more first-place finishes and another second-place spot throughout the day.

The conference also awarded Stypinski with Specialist of the Year honors and a share of the Freshman of the Year title.

“They’ve competed in such a calm demeanor, and that’s what it takes in a championship like that because there are so many emotions and adrenaline is running high,” Biggin said. “Just a great performance from a lot of kids, and some very special performances from a couple kids as well.”

Through the team’s shaky regular season — the Flashes finished 7-7 on the year and 2-4 in the conference during dual meets — Biggin said Kent State failed to qualify for a regional tournament this year and the Flashes’ season is officially over; however, with a promise youth returning to the team, he remains optimistic the team can break new heights next season.

Of the team’s 20 gymnasts, only five are graduating, and all three of the All-Tournament athletes should be starting for the Flashes next season.

“It starts with winning another championship, winning a regular season title, and then we need to take a trip to regionals and then take a trip to nationals,” Biggin said. “We’ve got the young ladies on the team right now, and they’ve got a lot of great experience. I’m not sure there’s a lot more pressure they could feel on themselves than they did today, and they came through in flying colors.”

Contact Jimmy Miller at [email protected].