Gymnastics prepares for season with intrasquad competition

Nick Walton

Gymnasts face off for starting role on team

Despite two straight Mid-American Conference championships and a fifth-place finish in the NCAA Central Region Championship, the Kent State gymnastics team isn’t content.

With its first meet more than a month away, the 26th-ranked team in the nation is preparing for the season with the annual Blue and Gold Intrasquad meet at 7 p.m. in the M.A.C. Center.

“If you want to be a good team, you don’t look at last year as ‘Wow, that was the epitome of it,'” Kent State coach Brice Biggin said. “Last year hopefully is going to continue to build for what we expect from this year’s team.”

Biggin said the meet is an opportunity for gymnasts to show their ability to perform in competition.

“Unfortunately, only six girls compete on each event for a meet, and the girls understand that this is their big showcase to push their chance at telling us as coaches ‘Hey, I got what it takes this year. I want to be a competitor,'” Biggin said. “Obviously we watch practice, and practice for us is extremely important, but they got to be able to do it in a meet too.”

Junior gymnast Christine Abou-Mitri said the team’s expectations are the same as last year: finish in the top two at regionals and an NCAA National Championship appearance. Abou-Mitri acknowledged the challenge of staying committed to following these goals.

“To have that type of goal you have to work at it, and it’s like a building process,” Abou-Mitri said. “It starts from the get-go, and that’s what we got to prove.”

Abou-Mitri finished 13th in all-around and sixth overall on beam at regionals last season.

With the graduation of five seniors, including 2008 MAC floor champion Rachel Stuck and 2009 MAC floor champion Laci Hendress, the Flashes will depend on seven upperclassmen for leadership.

Junior gymnast Christina Lenny said it’s important for underclassmen to understand the significance of working hard to reach team goals.

“We try to reinforce it every day in practice that every routine counts, every skill counts because, yes we’ve won two MAC championships in a row, but that’s no guarantee that we’re going to do three in a row just because we’ve won it before,” Lenny said. “We’ve just been trying to get them to understand that nothing is guaranteed, anything could happen in a meet.”

Last season, Lenny finished in sixth place at regionals and tied for 24th at nationals. Lenny said the experience made her confident in the team’s ability to compete nationally.

“Being (at nationals) and watching it, we’re not far from a lot of the teams that go there,” Lenny said. “As long as we’re consistent and we hit, we have just as much chance as anybody else to go.”

With the time off after tonight’s meet, the team will practice during winter break to be prepared for the season. Biggin said the coaches are looking for consistency and confidence in the meet.

“Last year we made a lot of routines, but we didn’t really still perform them the way I think we were capable of in a lot of areas,” Biggin said. “We as coaches are really going to hope that we see some pretty good confidence for it being early.”

Contact sports reporter Nick Walton at [email protected].