Tumbling into the nation’s capitol

Marcus Barkley

With the District of Columbia abuzz with primary election fever, the Kent State gymnastics team (9-3) will look to travel to D.C. to secure some victories of their own Sunday against West Virginia (11-7), Maryland (5-9) and host George Washington (10-7).

Sunday’s competition is the first of two consecutive away meets for the Flashes, who are 4-3 on the road this season.

Coach Brice Biggin said his team is taking a low-key approach to this week’s road competition and trying to just go out and perform the way he knows they can.

“We haven’t competed terrible on the road. We’ve really just struggled on beam for two meets,” Biggin said. “We need to not worry about it and just go out there, relax, do what we’ve been doing, go out and work as a team and just have fun with it.”

The meet will also mark the second and final quad meet of the season for the Flashes. The team finished third out of four teams in its first four-squad competition of the season Feb.16 in North Carolina.

Biggin said the team hopes to put the first quad competition behind them and focus on competing hard against four talented teams.

“We need to really make sure to use this weekend as a stepping-stone for MAC championships,” Biggin said. “We told the team to get themselves focused and to forget about everyone else – we’re the best team going out there, but we need to prove it.”

Along with coaching his team on Sunday, Biggin is also celebrating the birth of twin daughters, who were born on Wednesday. Though Biggin is ecstatic about his two new additions, he said he still wants to keep his team focused on the weekend competition.

“It’s been a whirlwind (week) and it kind of puts things in perspective,” Biggin said. “But this is very driven team and we do have goals and we realize we need to work to accomplish those. You enjoy what’s happening at the time, but unfortunately you have to stay grounded too and be mentally focused as well.”

Leading the team into competition will be junior Rachel Stuck, who received Mid-American Conference Gymnastic Specialist honors for her performance last weekend. Stuck landed a 9.9 on floor, her career-high and the season-high for the team, which helped propel the floor routine to a score of 49.175 overall, the highest mark for the event this season.

Stuck said that she is really excited to travel to Washington D.C. for the 3 p.m. competition.

“We don’t want to come in third in another quad meet – we want to come first,” Stuck said. “We’ve had a lot of talks about getting serious, and I think people are finally starting to get it – we’re pumped.”

The Flashes are coming off a 194.825-188.475 victory against Bowling Green on Friday night – a win that kept them perfect in both conference play and at home.

Sophomore Brittany Kopp, who tied for first in vault with a score of 9.8 Friday, said a win like the one against the Falcons is good for keeping the momentum going as the team hits the road for the next two weeks.

“It was a good meet and the ‘Flip for a Cure’ event and we just wanted to go out there and have fun with it,” Kopp said. “We just did what we usually do – stayed together as a team and kept up our consistency and had fun with it.”

West Virginia is coming off a road victory last weekend against Pittsburgh that marked the team’s sixth in a row. Kent State has gone 10-18 overall against the Mountaineers, losing the last three in a row.

Maryland scored a season-high mark and finished third out of four teams last Saturday at North Carolina. Kent State is 2-1 all-time against the Terrapins, with the last meeting of the two teams resulting in a loss for the Flashes in 2002.

George Washington, who the Flashes beat at home on Feb. 8, placed second out of four teams at Penn State last Saturday. The Flashes are 6-1 against the Colonials all-time, winning the last two meetings in the past two seasons.

Aside from the competition Sunday, the Flashes are also looking to enjoy a chance to get away from the continually frozen landscape of Ohio and enjoy a trip to the nation’s capitol.

“We’re really excited because we’re leaving Saturday so we can relax and tour Washington, D.C. and get our minds off gymnastics for a day,” Stuck said. “It’s like a vacation during the season. And since we don’t get a spring break, It’s nice to do something fun during the season.”

Contact Gymnastics Reporter Marcus Barkley at [email protected].