Flashes tumble at MAC Championships

Katie Corbut

Gymnasts unable to defend conference title, finish runner-up

It was a tenth for tenth matchup between the Kent State and Central Michigan gymnastics teams, but the Chippewas were able to capitalize on where the Flashes’ struggled on beam, which came to be the difference maker at the Mid-American Conference Championships on March 27.

Kent State’s gymnasts fell on the beam twice, which caused the team to get down on itself for the rest of the meet and cost the Flashes a chance to defend its third-straight conference title. It was those lost tenths that resulted in a runner-up finish to Central Michigan, 195.600 to 195.025.

Not only did the team lose, but the team’s morale leader, junior Christine Abou-Mitri, had what may have been her worst meet of the season.

Following the awards ceremony, a teary-eyed Abou-Mitri had only a few things to say.

“It’s really disappointing,” she said. “We just need to refocus.”

“You can’t win every year. Certainly the kids hearts were there,” Kent State coach Brice Biggin said. “We lost to a very good team.

“Central as improved a lot and they’re going to give teams a run for their money at regionals like we will. We’ve fought all year long and I’m proud of them.”

On the vault, junior Christina Lenny tied Brittany Taylor and Katie Simon of Central for first scoring a 9.825.

In their second rotation, bars, sophomore Erin Rothrock collected top honors with a score of 9.875. Senior Lydia Barrett tied Bibiana Rodriquez of Ball State for second place with a score of 9.80.

The Flashes led Central Michigan by more than four tenths going into the third rotation, but the Chippewas prevailed where it counted the most — beam.

Sophomore Brianna Skiffington and freshman Sarah Moore opened with a solid routine for the Flashes. Following a fall by sophomore Kristina Arcury, senior Brittany Kopp recorded a season-high 9.8 (good for fourth place) routine. Lenny followed Kopp with another solid routine, but the pressure was on for Abou-Mitri and she fell on her flight series.

The Flashes had an opportunity on floor to regain some ground, but Central Michigan didn’t budge.

The scores on floor seemed to fly high for the Chippewas, but the Flashes weren’t as fortunate. Even with decent performances by junior Danielle Durbin, senior Sam Heydlauff and Skiffington, none of it mattered when Barrett fell on her first tumbling pass, and stumbled out of bounds.

This mistake cost her anywhere from six to seven tenths. But it cost the team even more.

Despite trailing Central Michigan, Lenny won the event, tying five other competitors with a 9.85.

“I just tried to go out and do the best routine for the team and give it everything I had,” Lenny said. “Brice tells us all the time that it’s not over till it’s over. We were still pretty focused on floor.”

All MAC champion plaques were awarded to gymnasts who placed first on any given event. Lenny and Rothrock were the only Kent State gymnasts to take home an award.

Before bars, Biggin spoke with Rothrock, hoping to pump her up before the event.

“I told her, you are the best bar-swinger in the conference, you need to go out and prove it to everyone,” Biggin said. “Those are the things we need to lift our team up —it was a great bar routine.”

Even with an off-meet, Abou-Mitri was awarded MAC Gymnast of the Year.

“It’s such a deserved award for her,” Biggin said. “She has carried this team on her back this season. It’s been a huge task for her and she ahs stepped up for this team so many times. I’m so proud of the way she’s matured.”

Abou-Mitri wasn’t quite as satisfied with herself, given the large amount of individual talent in the conference.

“I’m proud of it (MAC award). I’ve worked hard this year,” she said. “I just wish things would have come together for this really important meet.”

The season isn’t over just yet. The Flashes have one more opportunity to show what they’re made of in a few weeks at regionals.

“We need to get back in the gym and work harder,” Lenny said. “We can’t let this affect us. We have to go in and work harder.”

Contact sports reporter Katie Corbut at [email protected].