Not what they were hoping for

Marcus Barkley

Gymnastics team buckles under pressure and finishes 6th at the NCAA Central Regional Meet

A disappointing team performance Saturday at Louisiana State University turned the NCAA Central Regional Championship meet from a chance at national notoriety for the Kent State gymnastics team into simply a learning experience and a building block for next season.

“I certainly hope they take this and learn something from it and come back with a chip on their shoulders, because we were a better team and didn’t live up to our standards,” coach Brice Biggin said. “They have to start getting an attitude that there is a lot more out there then just the (Mid-American Conference Championships).”

The Flashes finished last behind the five other teams at the meet with a score 193.700. Host team LSU narrowly edged out Stanford 197.625 to 197.525.

Biggin said the team seemed to have problems competing under the pressure of a large crowd at a big school, something that troubled the Flashes earlier in the year at North Carolina State.

“They need to start understanding you have to be mentally tougher if you want to start beating the bigger teams (and) improve your team’s reputation,” Biggin said. “If we (would have gone out) and had a normal meet, we would have finished third.”

Sophomore Lydia Barrett said the team needs to learn from the experience and compete the same way in the future regardless of how good or bad their competition is.

“(The regionals) were a good experience because we can learn from it,” Barrett said. “We need to work on competing as the same kind of team no matter who we are performing against, whether they’re ranked number 1 or 81.”

The Flashes struggled for the most part on all four events, especially on bars, where the team finished with a total score of 47.950, nearly a point below the season average.

The one positive event on the day was the beam. It was an event the team struggled to improve with throughout the season.

“(The beam) was our last rotation in our last event and the last five kids went up and hit routines,” Biggin said. “That is what we were expecting to do all meet long, and unfortunately the same didn’t happen on floor or bars.”

A positive for the team on a more individual level was the performance of the seniors at the competition. Biggin said the seniors did a great job at their final meet and wished that the underclassmen had done more to carry the team.

“(The seniors) have nothing to feel bad about at all,” Biggin said. “It’s just very bittersweet for them because they performed well, but the rest of the team just didn’t back them up enough.”

Senior Jill Kowalski said though the seniors did what they set out to do for the team, it doesn’t mean much if the whole team didn’t do well.

“We definitely were glad that we performed well in our final meet,” Kowalski said. “But it’s never about us personally — so it’s just kind of a bummer for us as a team.”

Barrett said the team will miss the seniors and they leave huge holes that the rest of the team must fill come next season.

“They’re going to be extremely difficult to replace — both in the gym and out of it,” Barrett said. “Their consistency is what’s going to need to be filled by everyone else. If we come together strongly as a team, I hope we can make them proud.”

Biggin said the team will get a week or so to recoup their bodies and make sure they have their studies in order, then it’s time to hit the gym once again and train for next year.

Though the team is extremely disappointed by their performance at regionals, Barrett said that she is confident and excited about next season.

“Next year, it’s a whole different team and our talent level is going to be totally different,” Barrett said. “But our main goal is to remain consistent and continue to do the same good things next year.”

Biggin said the team will hit the gym and look to climb even higher next season.

“We’re going to have to find some leaders and some upper classmen who are willing to take over the job that the seniors did this year,” Biggin said. “The seniors did everything they could to help this team to do it this year — we’re going to miss the heck out of them.”

The scores

1.) Louisiana State – 197.625

2.) Stanford – 197.525

3.) The Ohio State – 195.125

4.) Missouri – 195.100

5.) Kentucky – 194.950

6.) Kent State – 193.700

Contact Gymnastics Reporter Marcus Barkley at [email protected].