Flashes sit atop MAC due to dominance in four events

Pamela Crimbchin

Team masters multiple skills in order to compete for conference title

The Kent State gymnastics team leads the Mid-American Conference due to its high scoring in all four events.

The women are excited to compete in front of their home crowd tonight even if the fans don’t fully understand the amount of difficulty that goes into each event.

Without full mental focus, gymnasts in these difficult events can lose more than just a couple tenths of a point from a score.

“It’s not just you have a bad day,” junior Lydia Barrett said. “You can die.”


Gymnasts run full speed down an 82-foot long runway to launch themselves off of a vault onto the landing mat. While in mid-air between the vault and mat (a moment of milliseconds), gymnasts are judged on the height and distances of the jump and the skills they perform.

Sophomore Christina Lenny is the defending MAC champion on vault. Lenny and Barrett both said vault is one of their favorite events in their meets.

“I like that it is one thing that counts,” Barrett said. “If you do that one thing well, it’s over and it’s done and it’s like a maximum feeling in one second.”

Uneven Bars

For the uneven bars, a gymnast performs many acrobatic skills on two bars in the air. The athlete must make sure she has enough momentum during her performance in order to handle eight to 11 elements.

Barrett, the defending MAC champion on bars, excels at really clean lines and strong handstands. Seniors Stacey Kalberg and Laci Hendress are also top scorers for the team in the event.

Sophomore Christine Abou-Mitri likes to challenge herself and performs one of the most difficult routines on bars for Kent State.


Beam, one of the hardest events for gymnasts, can “make or break” a team, Kent State coach Brice Biggin said. The gymnasts must perform a routine while balancing on a 4-inch-wide beam.

“If you’ve got a good beam team, you’re probably going to be pretty successful most of the time,” Biggin said. “If you can’t make beam you (have) no chance really of winning championships.”

Judges are looking for combinations of leaps, jumps, punch fronts, handsprings, at least a C-level dismount and more, all while being steady and confident.

Gymnastic skills are based on an alphabet system, with E being the most difficult and A being the easiest. The gymnast is rewarded tenths of points according to the difficulty of the skill and how they are combined in a routine.

Biggin said Hendress has been one of Kent State’s solid performers on beam lately, while Abou-Mitri has been stepping up a lot as well. Beam is Abou-Mitri’s favorite event.

“It takes a lot of concentration and if you’re not focused, then anything can go wrong,” Abou-Mitri said. “Your foot can flip, you can crotch the beam.”


A crowd favorite, with its energetic music mixes and spectacular dance performances, is floor. Gymnasts perform a choreographed exercise to music of their choice, with coach’s approval, on a 42 feet by 42 feet foam mat.

The square consists of blue carpet over a layer of foam covering plywood and springs.

Gymnasts must show off their flexibility while performing at least three tumbling passes with frontward and backward tumbling, jumping and leaps.

Floor is both Lenny and Barrett’s favorite event.

“You can show off your routine, and along with doing a lot of really hard tumbling, you dance and get the crowd into it,” Lenny said.

The Flashes had a shortened practice week after returning Monday morning from Sunday’s win of 194.200 to 193.750 at Northern Illinois. The team rested this week, but Biggin said he is hopeful the home crowd feeds the gymnasts with enough energy to pull off another win against Southeast Missouri tonight.

“It’s going to be a great test for us,” Biggin said. “They’re a well-coached team, a very sound team, so I think we are excited for the competition and challenge ahead.”

Contact sports reporter Pamela Crimbchin at [email protected].