Gymnasts try to bounce back after North Carolina tumble

Marcus Barkley

The Kent State gymnastics team (7-3) will travel to Mount Pleasant, Mich., on Saturday to try and add to its perfect 3-0 record in the Mid-American Conference against Central Michigan (2-8).

Despite Central Michigan’s lackluster record this season, the Chippewas have continually been a thorn in the side of the Flashes and the two have developed a heady rivalry. Coach Brice Biggin said that his team needs to ignore Central Michigan’s record when they travel up north this weekend.

“We certainly aren’t going in there taking anything for granted with their record,” Biggin said. “They’re down a little bit, they have some injuries, but we’ve seen that before and it’s the worst mistake you can make, to take anybody lightly.”

The all-time record between the two conference rivals stands at 23-19 in favor of the Flashes. The two teams tied last year for the regular season M.A.C. title, though both were bounced in the M.A.C. championships by Eastern Michigan. Coach Biggin spoke on the long held rivalry with the Chippewas.

“It’s amazing how they tend to rise up to the occasion when we come in there,” Biggin said. “There’s a big mutual respect for each we team and we know they’re a good team and they know they’re going to have to compete at their best to beat us at well.

When the teams met last year, the Chippewas handed Kent State its only regular season conference loss, the team’s only loss in dual meet play and their only home loss of the year.

Though gymnastics is truly a single team sport first, where both teams are performing for individual team scores before worrying about the squad competing with them, a loss like the one suffered last year by Central Michigan is not easily forgotten by the Flashes who competed in the meet.

“I don’t think they really deserved to win last year,” sophomore Lydia Barrett said. “If we’re on our top game, it should be no problem, but we have to keep consistent because you never know what a team is going to pull out.”

The Flashes are coming off the most disappointing match of the year this week. The team placed third out four teams at the Sweetheart Invitational after another bad bout with the beam crippled the team early, a wound they would never heal from in the rest of the match. Biggin spoke on how he looks to improve on the beam, a hill and valley event all year for the Flashes.

“Beam is most coaches worst nightmare because you can’t ever tell, week to week, how a team is going to do,” Biggin said. “This is a group that is capable of being good on beam every meet, they just have to have the right mindset.”

The girls on the team also understand the importance of improving on weak events and trying to maintain momentum, even after a hard meet like the one suffered last week.

“We’ve been testing our mental strengths with different kinds of pressure sets and things like that,” senior Jill Kowalski said. “We need to get ready for any kind of meet situation.”

Though the team was disappointed with last Saturday’s showing, the Flashes did manage to move up in the polls to #22, their highest mark this season.

Central Michigan is coming off of a disappointing loss against Bowling Green Saturday. After tying for the regular MAC Championship with an impressive 5-1 record in the conference and a 10-7 record overall, the Chippewas have struggled this year, only netting two victories on the year thus far, both against in-state rival Western Michigan.

The match will take place at 7 p.m. and will be the second of two road trips before the Flashes come back home next week for another match against Bowling Green. Biggin said he hopes that this meet will be a statement, both for his team and the rest of the teams in MAC that the Flashes can come back from defeat and become stronger through it.

“We look at this weekend as a really good chance for us to make a statement,” Biggin said. “It doesn’t matter whether we’re home, it doesn’t matter whether we’re away, we’re still capable of throwing out a good score no matter where we’re at.”

Contact Gymnastics Reporter Marcus Barkley at [email protected]