Gymnasts look for better road performance

Pamela Crimbchin

Team battles NIU for MAC title

The Kent State gymnastics team will try to keep its home meet attitude and scores while away at Northern Illinois on Sunday.

“We can’t take anything for granted,” Kent State coach Brice Biggin said. “We’ve got to be able to go down there and really stay focused like we do at home.”

This season the Flashes have consistently increased their scores at every meet. But the team’s average away score is 192.593 points in four meets, compared to 195.362 in two home meets.

“Looking at stats, we just need a big, hopefully 195 (or) 194 score to help us move up the rankings in the country,” assistant coach Thomas Ward said.

Kent State is tied for first with Northern Illinois in the Mid-American Conference. The gymnasts on the team understand the importance of this meet and their scores.

“We want to show them we’re as good on the road as we are at home,” senior Amy Wroblewski said. “Our scores have been building and building and building, and it’s going to be really important to not drop from where we left off last week.”

The Flashes beat Central Michigan and Maryland last weekend, receiving a season-best score of 196.150 to Central Michigan’s 194.700 and Maryland’s 194.375.

The win was important for recruiting, for beating Maryland after a loss earlier this season and for sizing up the competition for the Mid-American Conference championship, which usually comes down to Central Michigan and Kent State.

Junior Samantha Heydlauff, usually an exhibition competitor, replaced sophomore Christina Lenny on floor last week because Lenny was taking it easy after an injury. Heydlauff had a good performance, tying for third overall with a score of 9.825.

Biggin is unsure if Heydlauff will remain as a competitor on floor this week or if Lenny will be rested enough to step back in.

“The nice thing is we’ve got really good depth,” Biggin said. “The hard thing is we would be taking out someone who’s probably capable of scoring a 9.8 or above.”

The Huskies went 1-1 last weekend, losing to Illinois-Chicago but beating Seattle Pacific. Northern Illinois struggled on beam, having to count four falls.

Meanwhile, Kent State’s gymnasts overcame their beam hardships in last weekend’s meet, hitting all six routines without counting a fall in the event.

“We’re confident,” freshman Lindsey Otanicar said. “We definitely want to back up what happened here at home, and we’re excited to show everyone that we are a good team.”

Kent State beat Northern Illinois at the MAC Championships last season, earning the Flashes the title of MAC champions. However, Biggin knows Kent State will be on Northern Illinois’ turf and that its program is improving.

“Northern Illinois, in the last couple years, has really done a great job with their program,” Biggin said. “They’ve gotten better kids, (and) they are better trained right now.”

During practice, the team has been sticking to the workouts and routines that helped it win against Maryland and Central Michigan, knowing at the same time how exciting it will be if it wins this weekend’s meet.

“(We’re) excited about the opportunity to take the driver’s seat for the regular-season MAC championship,” Ward said.

Contact sports reporter Pam Crimbchin at [email protected]