Righting old wrongs

Marcus Barkley

Gymnastics looks to avenge last season’s loss in the MAC

Christine Abou-Mitri performs on the uneven bars during Kent State’s match with Eastern Michigan Friday at the M.A.C. Center. The Flashes defeated Eastern Michigan 195.750 to 192.650 to clinch the MAC regular season title.


Credit: DKS Editors

The Kent State gymnastics team (11-3) will host the MAC Championship tomorrow at 2 p.m., and the squad hopes to take action to secure the conference title that eluded it last year.

“The team’s motto all year has been ‘enough talk’ so come Saturday, it’s time for action,” coach Brice Biggin said. “And actions certainly speak a lot louder then words.”

Leading the team into competition will be senior Kristin Peters. Peters has excelled throughout her four-year career at Kent State and is currently ranked first in the conference in the bars event.

Peters said that she feels the team is ready to go out and perform and to defend its home floor.

“It’s motivating knowing that teams are going to come in here and compete at our gym,” Peters said. “So I think we’re very focused on our goal and what we have to do this weekend.”

Peters, as well as the other upper classmen, know what it’s like to lose focus and not live up to expectations. After capturing the MAC regular season title last season, the Flashes were upset at the championship meet by Eastern Michigan, who was favored early in the season to win the championship again this year.

Biggin said he knows the loss last year affected the women on the roster deeply, and they have been working since then to make up for that effort.

“We’ve talked about (last year’s loss) all season – we blew an opportunity last year and we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves,” Biggin said. “The girls know they have a great opportunity this year and it’s time to take advantage of that and do what we’re supposed to.”

Freshman Christina Lenny, who has anchored the team on vault all season, was not around for the disappointment of last season. This has not stopped her from being reminded of it by her teammates and coaches.

“Last year we came in second, so we need to go in and perform, especially at home,” Lenny said. “I think that (last year’s performance) has helped to push us harder towards our goals this year – we all want this.”

Other gymnasts looking to lead the Flashes into competition are senior Jill Kowalski and junior Rachel Stuck. Kowalski was named MAC Gymnast of the Week and Stuck MAC Specialist of the Week going into the championship competition this weekend.

Biggin said that, when all is said and done, it comes back to the team competing like it has all season and simply stepping up at the championship meet and proving the kind of team they are to the rest of the conference.

“We can’t change our approach, our focus, or the way we go about business,” Biggin said. “We feel we have the deepest and the best team – but we have to be ready to go out there and prove it.”

Contact gymnastics reporter Marcus Barkley at [email protected].

The Competition

When it comes to gymnastics, the Mid-American Conference looks quite different from the roster of teams seen in the other main sports. Schools such as rival Akron University and Ohio University, for example, do not currently have collegiate gymnastics programs.

There are 6 other teams that make up the MAC in gymnastics: Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan. This is how the other squads look going into Saturday’s championship competition.

Ball State

Record: 1-12 (0-6 in MAC competition)

Against Kent State: The Flashes defeated the Cardinals at Muncie, Ind. on Jan. 25, 192.175-186.875

Coaches Comments: “I feel really good about our team – we have nothing to lose,” coach Nadalie Walsh said. “They had a little bit slower season than I would have liked them to, but the awesome thing about the MAC Championship is that whoever hits that day takes it all.”

Bowling Green

Record: 9-12 (3-2)

Against Kent State: The Flashes defeated the Falcons twice this season, with both times coming at home. The first was at the All-Ohio meet on February 3 195.150-190.700 and the second was on Feb. 29 with a score of 194.825-188.475.

Coaches Comments: “Going into the (conference championships), I want (the team) to focus on our successes and compete confidently and aggressively,” coach Kerrie Beach said. “I have high hopes for us to finish our season with (strong) routines and thus a great placing at the MAC Championships.”

Central Michigan

Record: 7-11 (3-3)

Against Kent State: The Flashes defeated the Chippewas at Mount Pleasant, Mich. on Feb. 23 with a score of 194.625-192.175.

Coaches Comments: “I think we’re ready – this is what we practiced three months for,” coach Jerry Reighard said. “It all boils down to one event on Saturday where (our gymnasts) have to make that decision – how much is it worth to you? What are you going to do with that opportunity?”

Eastern Michigan

Record: 11-5 (3-2)

Against Kent State: The Flashes defeated the defending champion Eagles last week at home with a score of 195.750-192.650.

Coaches Comments: (On recently competing at Kent State) “It works in our favor that the kids have been here and they have seen (the M.A.C Center),” coach Steve Wilce said. “We expect to be much better at the conference championship.”

Northern Illinois

Record: 10-4 (3-2)

Against Kent State: The Flashes defeated the Huskies 193.475-192.675 for their first home and conference win of the season on Jan. 20.

Coaches Comments: Huskies coach Mark Sontag was not able to be reached for comment.

Western Michigan

Record: 4-13 (2-4)

Against Kent State: The Flashes defeated the Broncos in Kalamazoo, Mich. on March 16 with a score of 194.550-192.475.

Coaches Comments: “We’ve been working very hard to strengthen our lineup,” coach Terry Karwoski said. “I plan on telling my team to rely on their ability to hit their routines. They’ve done it in practice and in competition, they just need to stay focused and go for it.”