NCAA regional meet in Baton Rouge looms

Marcus Barkley

As team heads south, practice remains key

As the Kent State gymnastics team prepares to travel this weekend to Baton Rouge, La., both the gymnasts and the coaches understand this week’s practice is vital – especially when preparing for the NCAA Regional Championship Meet Saturday.

“Practice has been good this week because I think the girls were coming off a pretty good high from MAC Championships,” assistant coach Kurt Hettinger said. “I think we had a lull in practice last week, so it’s good we got the chance to get back to being focused and ready for the upcoming meet.”

Junior Amanda St. John said one thing that helped practice go smoothly is the sunshine that graced the Kent area in the last couple days.

“When you wake up and it’s a really good day, you just get up with a better mood,” St. John said. “So you walk into the gym with a better attitude and that just gets everybody more pumped up.”

Hettinger said the team is ready to get out and compete after spending the better part of the last two weeks practicing and waiting for its chance to try and take the program to the next level.

“This week has been an especially good week of practice,” Hettinger said. “Right now, we’re trying to clean up little things, and just come and get our work done so we can get out and compete.”

The practices vary every day, but normally start with a team talk from the coaches before breaking off to do work on separate events and situations. The coaches run their individual events differently and have the girls who perform in multiple events move from one event to another as practice progresses.

Sophomore Brittany Kopp said practices are time-consuming and never easy, but they’re worth it.

“It’s definitely worth it because, when you get to a meet, you never know if you’re going to have a difficult day,” Kopp said. “It’s all those harder days in practice that prepare you for anything that could happen at a meet.”

Hettinger said that the coaches feel the girls need to be pushed hard and often if they want to move on from this to regional and possibly nationals as well.

“We have a history of success here,” Hettinger said. “We expect to win the (Mid-American Conference) Championship. We expect to be in the NCAA playoffs every year and I don’t know if there are other teams in this conference that have those kind of expectations.”

Junior Stacey Kalberg, who is just coming back from an arm injury that sidelined her for weeks, said she is always tired by the end of practice, but feels fulfilled.

“I’m pretty tired after practice,” Kalberg said. “But in the back of my mind, I have (the regionals), so I’m always ready for more.”

Contact Gymnastics Reporter Marcus Barkley at [email protected].