Gymnasts head to Michigan for four-team meet

Pamela Crimbchin

The Kent State gymnastics team will travel to Michigan tomorrow for a warm-up meet before the Mid-American Conference championships and the NCAA Central Regional meet.

The Flashes will compete in the Eastern Michigan Eagle Invite against No. 13 Missouri and conference foes Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan.

“These are the meets you look forward to as athletes,” Kent State coach Brice Biggin said. “If you want to come out on top, you’ve got to do the best job.”

With four top teams competing at once, the meet will serve as an example of what the gymnasts can expect for the MAC championship meet just three weeks away.

Central Michigan and Kent State are often competing for the MAC title. Kent State has won the title five times, while Central Michigan has won the title 10 times. In the teams’ first meeting this season, Kent State achieved its season-high score to beat Central Michigan 196.150-194.700.

“We are really excited to see Central again, and we’re really excited to see No. 13 Missouri,” freshman Erin Rothrock said.

Kent State’s coaches and gymnasts said they are excited to see how the Flashes will score against Missouri. The two teams competed with one another in last season’s NCAA Central Regional meet. The Tigers took fourth with a score of 195.125 against Kent State’s sixth-place score of 193.700.

The meet will be on neutral territory for the top three competitors – Kent State, Missouri and Central Michigan – while Eastern Michigan has the home-turf advantage.

Biggin said even with great competition, Kent State will focus on itself as a team and try to block out the competitors while performing. He said if the gymnasts start to focus on the other teams, they will not be as successful.

“We are looking for a certain attitude from the girls,” Biggin said, “where they go in confident (and) calm and they don’t let anything rattle them.”

The Flashes started off this season with a score of 188.700 against Maryland; however, the team has exceeded 196 points in two of its last three meets.

“This is really what we thought they were capable of, and we were happy to see that they’ve found their confidence in themselves as a team,” Biggin said.

Kent State is currently tied at No. 24 with Kentucky in the NCAA rankings after last weekend’s 196.025-194.075 win against Southeast Missouri State.

“I think the ranking thing just makes it more exciting for us,” freshman Rachel Goldenberg said.

Junior Lydia Barrett’s performance at the meet earned her the MAC Gymnast of the Week title, while senior Rachel Stuck won the Specialist of the Week honor.

With their improved scoring as of late, the gymnasts have focused on perfecting their performances and cleaning up the routines during practice. Goldenberg said the team is very confident after its last two home meets.

Assistant coach Thomas Ward said “I personally have had this meet highlighted (on) the calendar for the whole season because it’s toward the end of the year, and all the teams are probably in their best conditions physically and mentally.”

Contact sports reporter Pamela Crimbchin at [email protected].