KSU gymnasts prepare to defend MAC title

Pamela Crimbchin

Team feels confident heading into championships

The Kent State gymnastics team is confident as it prepares to defend its Mid-American Conference title Saturday in Muncie, Ind.

“We are just pumped to try to win back-to-back,” junior Lydia Barrett said, “and try to send a statement to the country and to the MAC. (We want) to prove to everyone that it’s not just a one-time thing, that we are going to threaten your team every time you come against us.”

The Flashes will take on conference opponents Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Bowling Green and Ball State.

In a preseason poll of MAC coaches, No. 21 Kent State was picked to defend its title in the 2009 meet.

In Kent State’s last meet against Western Michigan, the Flashes earned a season-high score. The win gave the Flashes their second straight undefeated MAC record, the first time they had done that in program history.

“I think it’s a good way to approach MAC championships,” Barrett said, “coming in knowing that we have done that twice and now we think that we can win (the) MAC championship twice.”

Senior Amanda St. John finished the last home meet of her career by earning a career- high of 9.925 on floor. St. John was named MAC Specialist of the Week.

Sophomore Christine Abou-Mitri was also recognized for her performance in last week’s meet, earning MAC Co-Gymnast of the Week honors. Abou- Mitri’s all-around score of 39.375 was the highest in the MAC this season.

Kent State coach Brice Biggin said freshman Kristina Arcury has pushed herself the last five weeks of the season to earn a competing spot on beam. Arcury competed for the first time in last week’s meet and tied for second with Abou-Mitri on beam.

“She was too good to ignore,” Biggin said. “We had to give her an opportunity.”

Arcury is one of four freshmen who will be competing in this weekend’s championship.

“It would be awesome to go in my first year and get my first MAC championship right off the bat,” Arcury said.

Many of the gymnasts will compete in order to defend their individual titles this weekend. Sophomore Christina Lenny will try to defend her title on vault, as will senior Rachel Stuck on floor and Barrett on bars.

The Flashes have won six MAC championships with Biggin leading the team.

“It’s such a gratifying experience,” Biggin said. Whether it’s as a coach, whether it’s as a gymnast, you know that you’ve worked very well together.”

Assistant coach Sharon Sabin has seen two MAC championships in her six seasons with the Flashes, but assistant coach Thomas Ward has not had the chance to see any yet.

“Since it is my first season, it’s a really big deal to me,” Ward said.

The coaches are just as confident as the gymnasts about the meet.

“What (coaches) want to see is the look in their eye, the way they carry themselves, the way they act as a team,” Biggin said. “Right now they act like a team that wants to go in and win another championship.”

Contact sports reporter Pamela Crimbchin at [email protected].