Gymnasts reflect, push forward for next season


Shane Flanigan

The Kent State Gymnastics team cheer on senior Rachel Guida after her performance on the uneven bars Friday, Feb 15 at the MACC. KSU defeated Central Michigan 196.050 to 194.900. Photo by Shane Flanigan

Lily Flynn

A perfect conference record, an eight-week winning streak and a Mid-American Conference regular season championship are only a few of the accomplishments that come to mind upon mentioning the No. 23-ranked Kent State women’s gymnastics team.

For the team, having an undefeated season was only one of their goals. In fact, they wanted to push themselves even further.

“Our goals were to go undefeated in the MAC and become regular season MAC champions, and also to win the MAC Championships,” junior Marie Case said. “Also, we wanted to be top 18 going into [the NCAA] regionals and give ourselves a good opportunity to qualify for [the NCAA] nationals. We went undefeated in the MAC and won the regular season MAC championship. We stayed focused all season long and did our routines, hit our routines.”

Working as a team is a priority focus for the gymnastics program and is something that head coach Brice Biggin said he believes will not only help them win meets, but also grow as a team.

“I think obviously the big thing we look at is having a team that works well together and having a team that understands that we’re not going to be successful unless everyone gets along, unless they work together as a team, unless they cooperate,” Biggin said. “I think certainly [the team] did a wonderful job with that.”

The team’s success began with their second-place victory over Penn State and continued upward from there.

“We did well at Penn State and we beat a Big Ten team, which was very exciting,” assistant coach Sharon Sabin said. “I don’t think Kent State has done that in women’s gymnastics for a long time. I think we built on that throughout the year. I think that was a really big highlight for the team and for the girls.”

With eight consecutive wins and an undefeated conference record, including a victory over rival Central Michigan, the team was awarded the MAC regular season championship.

Following the conclusion of the regular season, the team advanced into the MAC Championships, placed third, and then went on to finish sixth at the NCAA regionals. While the season may not have ended the way they had hoped, the team is not dwelling on the mistakes from this season, and instead is focusing on its goals for next season.

“Obviously, we’re a little bit disappointed in the way we finished the year,” Biggin said. “We feel like we were a better team than how we performed at the end, and I think we have a lot of girls who are going to be hungry because of that. They’re going to come back, and they’re going to train very hard over the summer. They have goals that they didn’t completely meet this year. With Marie Case as one of the big leaders, she’s not going to let people rest on what happened this year. There is still some unfinished business that we need to take care of next year.”

The gymnasts once again want to push themselves to go as far as they can and qualify for a spot in the NCAA regional competition.

“We’re just going to do what we did this year, come in everyday and work hard,” freshman Nicolle Eastman said. “If anything, maybe believe in ourselves a little more, have a little more confidence and just do what we know how to do. We’re definitely going to go undefeated again, win the MAC Championship, and once we get to regionals, really give it a good effort to make it to nationals.”

While taking a few weeks off is necessary for the gymnasts, Biggin said he does not believe it will last very long because so many of the team members are hungry for another chance at victory.

“I don’t think it’s going to be difficult to motivate [the team],” Biggin said. “I think they’re going to be very focused on wanting to not only continue their success but also work on maybe being a little bit better and little bit more consistent at the end of the year so we can meet a few more of the goals that we set.”

Contact Lily Flynn at [email protected].