Gymnasts find their fire

Katie Corbut

Gymnasts find their fire

Earn top-team score for season

Earn top-team score for season

In a nail-biting competition, the Kentucky Wildcats topped the Kent State Golden Flashes by one tenth of a point with a final score of 196.050 to 195.950.

Even with a loss Friday in the M.A.C. Center, many team goals were met and exceeded.

From the first rotation on vault, through the fourth on floor, Kent State trailed Kentucky by tenths, but the Flashes kept fighting against the 15th ranked team, event by event.

On the vault, junior Christina Lenny took first with a score of 9.9 and was followed by two gymnasts from Kentucky tying for second place (9.875). Freshman Lauren Wozniak set a personal best on the event, scoring a 9.825 and tied for fourth with Kentucky’s Jasmine Minion.

Some uncharacteristically low bar scores pushed the Flashes behind the Wildcats by almost two tenths, but sophomore Erin Rothrock prevailed in a three-way tie for first scoring a 9.850.

Head coach Brice Biggin was disappointed with the scoring and believed that more than one gymnast deserved higher marks.

“Lenny might have been off on a cast or two,” Biggin said. “But Abou (Mitri) had just a little wobble on her dismount and that was it. She hit every handstand. It’s frustrating, but the girls did what they needed to do.”

The season-long challenge of the beam exercise is where the Flashes excelled over the Wildcats by meeting their goal of hitting five out of six routines. The Flashes counted not one fall, and the first four gymnasts went up and performed solid routines.

Senior Brittany Kopp was very pleased with the beam team’s performance considering their past struggle on the event.

“It felt amazing to go up and not have a fall before me,” Kopp said. “That just felt so great, having the first three girls hit. The intensity from the crowd was great.”

Placing first on the event was junior Christine Abou-Mitri who tied her personal best of a 9.875. Tying for fourth with Kentucky’s Hillary Furguson was sophomore Brianna Skiffington, who set a personal best (9.775) after struggling to find focus in previous meets.

The Flashes continued to make up ground on the Wildcats in the fourth rotation on floor. While the Wildcats took top honors in the event, the Flashes showed extraordinary determination. Placing third was senior Lydia Barrett (9.875) and in a three-way tie for fourth was Lenny, Abou-Mitri and Minion of Kentucky (9.850).

Once again, Abou-Mitri showed why she is ranked in the top 25 in the country in the all-around competition as she placed first in the meet with a score of 39.275. Following her was her teammate Lenny (38.600) and in third was Andrea Mitchell of Kentucky (38.450).

Biggin couldn’t say more positive things about Abou-Mitri and her success as an all-around competitor.

“She’s just not budging,” Biggin said. “That girl refuses to break. She’s so focused right now in the way she’s competing and leading this team.”

Coach Sharon Sabin would have liked to have topped her alma mater, but was still extremely proud of the girls’ performance.

“You’re upset because you lost, but we actually didn’t lose 100 percent,” she said. “Our kids were faced with a team and they didn’t crumble or choke. They rose to the occasion.”

The fight that Sabin saw in the team is what she hopes to see in the future, especially in the Mid-American Conference Championship that draws closer and closer.

Biggin was disappointed that the 21-meet home winning streak came to an end, but felt that regardless of the loss, the meet can still be looked at as a positive thing.

“Wins and losses matter to a point,” he said. “We did what we needed to do tonight to feel successful. The win streak comes to an end to a team that’s ranked 15th in the country, and it took their best meet of the season. We know we did our job.”

Kopp was upset about the loss, but had similar emotions as her coaches.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” she said. “It’s my second to last home meet as a senior. It would have been nice to pull out a win, but we have to take the good that happened tonight. And there was so much good that happened. We can’t focus on the loss.”

Contact sports reporter Katie Corbut at [email protected].