Gymnastics team falls short in season opener

Erica Mucci

The Kent State gymnastics team fell short in its season opener Sunday in Kalamazoo, Mich., as conference opponent Western Michigan topped the Flashes for the first time since 2006.

“They’re probably one of the most-improved teams over the last two to three years,” Kent State head coach Brice Biggin said. “It was a meet we knew we needed to go out and hit routines in and unfortunately we didn’t do that.”

The Flashes’ traditionally strong uneven bar team was led by junior Lindsay Runyan with a solid 9.800 score. Her score was canceled out, however, by a pair of uncharacteristic mistakes that caused the Flashes to fall behind early.

Biggin said injuries had a lot to do with the mistakes and he was not surprised the team did not score to its potential in the event.

“It’s not an excuse,” Biggin said. “It’s what it is. They’re still capable of doing great routines though. That group of girls has let the injuries affect the way they’re swinging.”

The Flashes began to fight back in the vault event. Freshman Chelsea Drooger (Holland, Mich.) led the charge with a 9.800, the best of the day. Biggin said he talked to the team after bars and told them not to give up.

“The meet is a long meet,” Biggin said. “We had three rotations left and needed to chip away at it one event at a time.”

The Flashes dominated the apparatus with four of the top five scores. Kent State posted a 48.725, the highest team score of the day.

Another solid team score of 48.700 came in the floor exercise. Sophomore Marie Case posted the day’s best score of 9.825. Tied for fourth in the event were freshman Whitnee Johnson and junior Lauren Wozniak, each scoring a 9.750.

But in the final rotation, the Broncos came alive with a score of 48.625 on the floor. Injuries and falls on the beam only scored the Flashes a 46.925 and allowed the Broncos to secure the win.

“After that first fall we couldn’t really recover, “ Biggin said.

The Broncos went on to win the match 192.650 to Kent State’s 192.025.

At an individual level, Biggin said he was very impressed with his freshmen gymnasts. In 12 freshman routines, there were only two falls.

“We were extremely pleased with the freshmen,” Biggin said. “It speaks a lot for the future, but the future is right now.”

Johnson earned the all-around title with a total score of 38.625 in the first meet of her collegiate career. She never scored below a 9.475 and finished in the top four in three of her four events.

“It’s really bittersweet,” Johnson said. “I’m happy I did well, but in college it’s all about the team. If we keep training the way we know how, we’re going to be unstoppable.”

The Flashes will look to put a mark in the win column Friday, as they host Eastern Michigan for their home opener. The meet is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the M.A.C Center.

“We know we have got a good meet this Friday and we certainly expect a very different outcome from our point of view,” Biggin said.

Contact Erica Mucci at [email protected].