Kent State gymnasts find victory against longtime rival Central Michigan


Junior Marie Case performs a split jump on the balance beam during a 196.050-194.900 home win over Central Michigan Friday, Feb. 15. Photo by Shane Flanigan .

Lily Flynn

A meet between rivaling teams tends to bring both anticipation and excitement to the teams involved. The rivalry between Kent State (6-2, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) and Central Michigan (7-3, 1-1 MAC) stirs up not only those emotions, but also over three decades worth of back-and-forth, fierce combat between the schools.

“They [Central Michigan] were ranked right ahead of us so they’re having a good season,” Kent State coach Brice Biggin said. “They’re going to be a good team coming in here. We know we’re going to have to be at our best. We’re expecting a dogfight. It’s a dog fight every time we see them.”

The two teams have combined to win the last five MAC season titles, along with 22 of the last 25. The past two years, the Flashes fell to the Chippewas by a less than a point margin, knocking them out of the championship. This year, however, Kent State stole the meet, defeating Central Michigan 196.050-194.900, along with setting the Flashes’ season-high score.

“It’s certainly very gratifying to go out there and throw your best score when you need it and against a team like them because this was a meet we needed to win very badly,” Biggin said.

Scoring well on both the vault (49.125) and the uneven bars (49.050), the Flashes took control early in the meet. The beam event continued to plague the gymnasts with a score of 48.575, the lowest of the four events. The last event, the floor exercise (49.300), launched the Flashes past the Chippewas into the first place spot.

“I saw a calm from [the gymnasts] and a confidence from them that we hadn’t seen the first two weeks,” Biggin said, “which was surprising because they have competed well away from home. This was really the meet that we were looking for from them.”

Junior Marie Case took her fourth consecutive All Around title win with a score of 39.025. Her other scores consisted of first place in floor (9.900), fifth place in uneven bars (9.800), eighth place in beam (9.600), and eighth place in vault (9.725). Case has now been awarded the MAC Gymnast of the Week title three weeks in a row.

“It’s always about what I can do and how I can improve and [about] just staying consistent,” Case said. “That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been staying consistent. I’ve been staying within myself, and just going out and hitting routines like I do in practice.”

Senior Lauren Wozniak and senior Lindsay Runyan also helped the Flashes find victory against the Chippewas. Wozniak took first in the vault with a score of 9.900, while Runyan tied for first with Central Michigan’s Kylie Fagen on the uneven bars (9.900).

The Flashes continue their season against conference member Northern Illinois at 5 p.m. Saturday.

“We just need to keep focusing on the little details and make sure we get every tenth that we can,” Case said. “Just really focusing and coming more together as a team [will help]. This is just one stepping stone to the MAC Championship.”

Contact Lily Flynn at [email protected].