Gymnastics celebrates 50 years of success

Pamela Crimbchin

A new generation of Kent State gymnastics took the floor to stretch and prepare for its first home meet, while old friends greeted one another with warm hugs and friendly handshakes in the stands.

Laughter and shouts of, “That’s me! Can you believe that?” filled the air as a slideshow displaying photos of the past 50 years of Kent State gymnastics played on the screen.

“It’s our past that allows the present,” came across the screen, reminding those on the floor just how much the alumni and founders meant to their program.

The Kent State gymnastics team celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the program Friday night before the meet against Ball State.

“It was really inspiring to see everyone from so long ago come and support us,” junior Lydia Barrett said. “Probably a lot of them haven’t been able to make a lot of meets recently, so it was good to show them what we’ve got.”

Rudy Bachna, one of the founders of Kent State’s gymnastics program, now 80 years old, sat among his former students, watching the program he started continue to grow with the coaching of Brice Biggin and assistant coaches Sharon Sabin and Thomas Ward.

“Brice Biggin has carried on the tradition,” Bachna said.

Biggin and Ward both competed under the direction of Bachna when Kent State had a men’s gymnastics team.

Though Bachna no longer coaches, he still advises behind the scenes and feels that because he coached both Ward and Biggin in their college days, he indirectly is still coaching the team.

Daphne Boon, a 1991 Kent State graduate, Amy Stadulis, a 1994 graduate, and their mother, Sue Musgrove, traveled from Phoenix to support the Flashes and see how far the program and facilities have come since their graduation.

“I think it is amazing,” Boon said. “Gymnastics in itself has changed so much. The difficult levels have changed so much, and I think Brice has done a great job in keeping up with the all the spotting and everything else that goes on with gymnastics.”

Bachna has also noticed the rise in difficulty from when he and his wife Janet started the team in 1959.

“If you would go from the 1960 Olympic team that we coached in Rome, my wife and I, to what happened at the Olympics this year, there’s just a great bit of difference and more difficulty is going on,” Bachna said.

Even with the increased difficulty, Ward and Biggin think the greatest accomplishment of the Kent State’s woman gymnastics team over the past 50 years is its consistency.

“I think that is really the thing that has defined the programs, is the consistency of success,” Biggin said, “and that’s something that we’re definitely very proud of.”

Both Boon and Stadulis said they miss being part of the team and the team camaraderie the most.

Bachna, however, looked at the team and said, “It’s still family.”

Contact sports reporter Pamela Crimbchin

at [email protected].