Going for regional gold

Marcus Barkley

The gymnasts had a week to prepare, and Saturday they enter the national spotlight for the NCAA Regional Championship

Left to right: Christine Abou-Mitri, Jill Kowalski, Rachel Stuck, Kristin Peters, Christina Lenny. DANIEL DOHERTY | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

After achieving one of the most impressive seasons in the program’s 41-year history, the Kent State gymnastics team travels to Baton Rogue, La., and looks to expand its success beyond the Mid-American Conference.

After a sweep at the MAC Championship meet March 29, the Flashes are confident they can ride the momentum from that victory. They look to use the win to vault into the top three at the NCAA Regional Championship meet Saturday at the Maravich Center on the campus of Louisiana State University.

“I think we feel pretty confident right now,” senior Kristin Peters said. “We’ve really stressed our goals and honestly, if we do the same thing we did at MACs, we’re giving ourselves a great opportunity to meet our goals.”

Kent State

Golden Flashes

Record: 17-3 (ranked 26th nationally)

Coach’s comment: “There is so much tradition at the university with all of the programs at Kent State. We want to carry along the tradition of Kent State gymnastics and our 10 championships.”

The competition

Louisiana State Tigers

Record: 17-6 (ranked 7th nationally)

Against the Flashes: First matchup

Stanford Cardinal

Record: 20-4 (ranked 6th nationally)

Against the Flashes: First matchup

Missouri Tigers

Record: 11-7 (ranked 18th nationally)

Against the Flashes: First matchup

Kentucky Wildcats

Record: 9-13 (ranked 20th nationally)

Against the Flashes: 1-0 (last meeting in 1990)

The Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 6-12-2 (ranked 33rd nationally)

Against the Flashes: 20-33 (last meeting this year, with Kent State winning at home)

The other teams to make the Central Regional are host LSU, Stanford, Missouri, Kentucky and Ohio State.

But even with the many accolades this season, the Flashes still feel they have more to accomplish.

“We want to make the top three and prove to everyone that we’re good and we belong,” senior Amy Presan said. “We want to show the country that we’re not just a little MAC team.”

Coach Brice Biggin said a strong showing this weekend will not only help his program, but help the conference out as well.

“In gymnastics, we want the other schools to realize that the (MAC) has some good teams,” Biggin said. “We want to be able to do our part in bringing positive recognition to the university.”

Though a number of gymnasts from Kent State have gone to the regional meet in the past years for individual events, this is the first time the team will go as a whole since 2005, the year the senior class was freshmen.

Senior Jill Kowalski said this year’s team is top notch.

“We’re such a good team this year, so we can’t do anymore,” Kowalski said. “We just have to go out and do what we’re capable of and remember that we’re just as good as the other teams, so we need to stay confident.”

At the meet, the Flashes will have to mix up their normal rotation of events, which has been vault, bars, beam and floor.

The beginning event is floor, and juniors Rachel Stuck and Amanda St. John are the leaders in that group. The second event is the vault, an event freshman Christina Lenny won nine of 11 times this season. The third event is the bars, where Peters, who is ranked 6th in the region, is the Flashes’ top performer. The final event on the day is the beam, an event that plagued the Flashes through the early part of the season, but one that the team has pulled out high scores on in the last three meets.

Though the team already has both the regular season and tournament title in the conference, Biggin said his team is ready for Saturday.

“The MAC Championships are so important (in the conference), but we’re not talking about the MAC right now – we’re talking about regional and national recognition,” he said. “If we want to have the rest of the country look at us and see us as a good program, this is the perfect opportunity for us to go out there and showcase our team.”

Contact gymnastics reporter Marcus Barkley at [email protected].