Flashes buck Broncos, clinch conference title

Katie Corbut

The Kent State gymnastics team finished its regular season the same way it did the three seasons before — by clinching the Mid-American Conference regular season title.

The Flashes ended the season a perfect 6-0 in the conference by beating Western Michigan 195.300 to 192.950 yesterday in Kalamazoo, Mich.

With a regular season MAC title under their belts, the Flashes earned top seeding for the MAC Championship meet next Saturday in Bowling Green.

“It’s a great way to end the regular season,” Kent State coach Brice Biggin said. “They met their goal of being undefeated by scratching off Western from the teams they needed to beat. Now we focus on next week and we need to be at our best.”

The Flashes encountered some turmoil on bars, with junior Christine Abou-Mitri and freshman Lindsay Runyan struggling to produce solid routines.

In the event, sophomore Erin Rothrock lead the way with a first place 9.875 finish, and in a three-way tie for third was freshman Rachel Guida, senior Lydia Barrett and the Broncos’ Kristine Garbarino (9.8).

On the vault, the Flashes swept the leader board with Barrett placing first with a stellar 9.9. Tying for second was Guida and freshman Lauren Wozniak (9.8).

Barrett was happy with her vault score, stating that it took long enough and she hopes to receive a similar score next weekend.

“I was happy because I’ve been working really hard on vault, it’s been tough for me this year.

I have confidence going into MACs,” Barrett said. “At the same time, it shouldn’t have taken this long. The judging is going to be tough next week, and I want to duplicate.”

Kent State gained ground on the floor exercise with all counting scores at or above a 9.8. Tying for first on the event with a score of 9.875 was Abou-Mitri and senior Sam Heydlauff. Barrett took third with a score of 9.85, just tenths behind her teammates.

Biggin was pleased with the floor team’s performance, especially with Sarah Moore.

“It was probably her best routine of the season,” Biggin said. “She really stepped in, and we needed that.”

On the last rotation of beam, the Flashes encountered some low scores but remained ahead of Western Michigan. For the third week in a row, the Flashes didn’t count a fall, and no gymnast fell off the beam.

In first place with a score of 9.850 was Abou-Mitri. Following her in second was junior Christina Lenny (9.75), who took three events off yesterday to rest some nagging injuries. Tying for third with Garbarino was sophomore Brianna Skiffington (9.725).

Biggin and the coaching staff were looking to rest Lenny in hopes of allowing her to regain some confidence.

“She needed a couple events off to give her leg a little rest for this weekend,” Biggin said. “And you know what, she did one of her best beam routines of the season. That was great.”

Because of Abou-Mitri’s fall on bars, she fell to Western Michigan’s Garbarino in the all-around competition, 39.075-38.650. She said she wasn’t happy with her performance and plans to get back in the gym and prepare for the season’s biggest meet.

“I had a good warm-up, but when the judge left the table for 10 minutes, I tensed up,” Abou-Mitri said. “My attitude carried over to vault, but Brice checked on me.”

Abou-Mitri said she got her act back together for floor and beam, and she’s not worried about her performance next weekend.

Barrett is excited for her last MAC Championship meet and hopes her team can go out and perform their best meet of the season.

“We had a few things that we need to work on, but overall we stuck together well and came out with a good team score. We’re looking for a cleaner job next weekend,” Barrett said. “The win is a great feeling because that’s our first goal. So check one off the checklist. We know we can do it, we just have to be on.”

“I’m very excited,” Abou-Mitri said. “I’m excited to show the other MAC schools not to mess with us.”

Contact sports reporter Katie Corbut at [email protected].