Gymnasts still MAC No.1 after road win

Marcus Barkley

Despite challenges, Flashes still perfect

After a disappointing third-place finish last week in North Carolina, things did not get any easier for the Kent State gymnastics team (8-3) against Mid-American Conference-rival Central Michigan University (2-9).

The Flashes were able to secure a victory, even with a combination of shaky performances and health issues from some of the team’s top performers in an already hostile environment at Central Michigan.

“Whether Central (Michigan) is having a good year or not, it’s a hostile environment to come into and perform,” assistant coach Kurt Hettinger said. “We were proud of how the girls bounced back from last week — now we just hope we don’t have to bounce back again”

Though the Flashes came out with a 194.625-192.175 victory on the road to remain perfect in conference play, head coach Brice Biggin spoke of how his team performed well but can do better.

“Overall, we’re pleased with the win, it’s always too tough to go to Central Michigan and come out with a victory,” Biggin said. “But I certainly don’t think we’re satisfied completely on how we competed — I think we still have a lot of things we can do better.”

The victory on Saturday night was a series of highs and lows, much like the meet last week in North Carolina. The Flashes managed to win all four events overall for a meet-sweep against the Chippewas, something that had not been done in competition all season. On the other end of the spectrum, the team was unable to capture an individual victory, something else that has not happened to the team all year.

Biggin said he was impressed with the team’s depth and how they managed to overcome rough single scores for event wins.

“Across the boards, we won all the events as a team and that’s way more important than individual wins,” Biggin said. “One, two or three don’t really matter. It’s four, five and six that wins meets.”

Part of what forced the team to show its depth was the problems experienced by three of the squad’s go-to performers.

Senior Kristin Peters, who leads the Mid-American Conference in the uneven bars, woke up with a pinched nerve in her neck, which forced her out of the vault event and made her other routines that much harder. Her diligence did pay off, as she was able to gain a second-place finish in bars and a tie for third place in beam.

Senior Amy Presan fought a fever that reached 101 degrees during the weekend and still managed to compete in both the beam and bars.

Freshman Christina Lenny, who leads the MAC in vault and leads her team in floor as well, sprained her foot during her second-place floor routine, which forced her out of the starting lineup for vault.

With all the injuries, Biggin said he was most pleased with how the team managed to pull together and grind out a victory in its impaired state.

“The thing that we’re most proud of is that the team had to go through some adversity to win,” Biggin said. “We had to make changes on the fly and they gutted out a victory.”

Leading the charge from the bench was freshman Felice Feugill, who has been called upon many times this season to come in and perform on vault.

“Felice has done an excellent job,” Hettinger said. “She has performed exceptionally well and we are proud of the job she has done for us.”

Other strong performances came from freshman Christine Abou-Mitri and junior Rachel Stuck, who received second and third place on vault, respectively. Senior Jill Kowalski and junior Stacey Kalberg tied for third place on bars. Kowalski also notched a second-place tie with junior Laci Hendress on beam.

Biggin said that even with the overall positive performance, there is still room for improvement and a need to continue to get better as the team gets closer to the MAC Championship meet at the end of March.

“We’re not disappointed, we just we have a ways to go to,” Biggin said. “We haven’t won anything yet, the big picture is still out there and that’s the regular season title and the MAC Championship. For us to reach that goal, we still have a lot of work to do.”

Central Michigan was paced by freshman Andrea de la Garza, who won the floor routine and also captured the all-around title for the Chippewas. Other winners for Central Michigan were sophomore Katie Simon on vault, senior Jenna D’Alle on bars and sophomore Jessica Suder on the beam.

The Flashes will be back home on Friday night to face MAC opponent Bowling Green for the second time this season. In the teams’ first meeting, the Flashes won the All-Ohio meet at home against the Falcons and Ohio State.

Hettinger said that it is nice to get home after two weeks on the road and the team is looking forward to facing Bowling Green again.

“It’s certainly nice to sleep in our own beds and not be packing stuff up all the time,” Hettinger said. “We’re going to get ready to see Bowling Green again and we know they’re going to be better than last time, so we can’t rest on our laurels and think that this will be an easy win.”

Contact gymnastics reporter Marcus Barkley at [email protected].