Senior gymnasts fare well in last home meet

Katie Corbut

There were smiles and tears as Kent State’s four seniors entered the gym with their parents before yesterday’s gymnastics meet. They were introduced to the crowd as leaders and achievers, and Sunday’s 195.275-191.200 win against Bowling Green in the M.A.C. Center showcased everything the women had been working for for the past four years.

A glossy-eyed Sam Heydlauff, who competed in floor and exhibition vault, was happy with her final home performance in front of her family and friends. She said she will miss many things about Kent State gymnastics, but she will miss her teammates the most.

“I’m really going to miss the team, making friends and building together,” Heydlauff said. “This year Abou helped me the most. I look up to her. She’s a wonderful gymnast.”

Junior Christine Abou-Mitri won the all-around with a score of 39.375, and her teammate, junior Christina Lenny, took second (38.925).

Like Heydlauff, Carly Conroy was emotional about her last home meet with the Flashes. To her, the atmosphere of having her teammates constant support is what she’ll miss the most, as well as the coaching that got her to where she is.

“I’ll miss Sharon (Sabin), just with being on beam so much, she’s helped me so much,” Conroy said.

Conroy competed in the exhibition beam, after struggling to find her confidence throughout the season, and she executed a near-flawless routine that scored a 9.875.

“She did a great routine. That’s what we’ve been looking for all season,” Kent State coach Brice Biggin said of Conroy. “Good for her because now we know we have a solid person if we need her.”

The Flashes went eight for eight on beam and counted no falls for the second meet in a row.

“The girls did an OK job today; everyone met their goal of staying on the beam,” assistant coach Sharon Sabin said. “Judging was a little tough, but our girls gave them an opportunity to take those deductions.”

Conroy was happy for her beam teammates for sticking their routines and performing to their capabilities. Biggin was also pleased with the girls, but agitated with the scoring once again, which he felt did not reflect their performances.

“They weren’t the best routines, but we’re gaining confidence,” he said. “We get that mental advantage going into next week.”

On the vault, Abou-Mitri placed second (9.850) and Lenny placed third (9.825). On the bars, Lenny tied for third (9.725) and freshman Rachel Guida tied for first with Abou-Mitri (9.800).

Kent State swept the beam awards with freshman Sarah Moore placing third (9.700), senior Brittany Kopp placing second (9.750) and Abou-Mitri earning top honors with a 9.875. On the floor exercise, Abou-Mitri tied senior Lydia Barrett for first place with a score of 9.850.

At the end of the meet, the junior class presented the seniors with a personalized plaque of photographs illustrating their career as Kent State gymnasts. To the underclassmen, Heydlauff extended some words of wisdom that she hopes will help them in their athletic careers.

“I tell them to have fun and to keep working. No matter what, keep working and you can keep improving,” she said. “Throughout my four years I improved tremendously.”

As a walk-on her freshman year, Heydlauff was behind the curve when it came to the floor exercise, but she had a lot of help and now is a contributing floor performer for the team. She said she is extremely thankful to the coaching staff for pushing her to be the gymnast she is today, especially to Biggin, who helped her overcome her fear of tumbling.

Similarly, Conroy also made large progress in her athleticism throughout her career and is thankful for the experience. She also extended some advice to the team before the meet began that she hoped will help motivate them in the future.

“I told them to enjoy the season. Every senior says it goes by really fast, and it really does go by fast,” she said. “Even the bus trips. Just being together is a lot of fun. I told them to take their time and enjoy it.”

Both Conroy and Heydlauff agree the Mid-American Conference Championships will be the highlight of their senior year, as it has been the highlight of the past two. Kent State has won the championship the past two years.

“MAC Championships is always the most exciting,” Conroy said. “That’s what we work for, it’s one of our biggest goals.”

As the MAC competition draws closer, now only two weeks away, the team aims to become more focused on the prize.

“Championships are the best part (of the season),” Heydlauff said. “Winning the last two years has led up to this year and hopefully we can do it again.”

The Flashes are on an upward curve just in time. They have now posted two team high scores that will help boost their national ranking.

Contact sports reporter Katie Corbut at [email protected].