Flashes and freshman star in rare form at All-Ohio

Marcus Barkley

Gymnastics gets win over Ohio State and Bowling Green

Teammates watch junior Laci Hendress on the balance beam at Sunday’s invitational. Kent State hosted Ohio State and Bowling Green Universities at the MAC center. Photo by Beth Rankin | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

The Kent State gymnastics team (4-1) came out and defended its gym against Ohio State (2-2) and Bowling Green (5-2) at this year’s All-Ohio meet, taking first place with a score of 195.150.

The score of 195.150 easily topped the season-high mark of 193.475 set by Kent State at its last home match against Northern Illinois. Coach Brice Biggin was very proud of his team’s strong overall performance.

“Obviously we’re very pleased,” Biggin said. “We put together four solid events and we knew it was going to be a tough competition with Ohio State and Bowling Green coming in here.”

One of the biggest factors was the crowd that filled the M.A.C. Center on Sunday.

“(The big crowd) gives me shivers knowing that all these people are here to watch us,” senior Jill Kowalski said. “It’s exciting and makes me want to do that much better.”

The Flashes placed the top score in uneven bars, beam and floor, where the team had a season-high event mark of 49.000. The team also tied Ohio State for top honors in vault with a matching score of 48.800.

Freshman Christina Lenny won vault for the fourth time in a row, with a season and team best mark of 9.875.

“(Vault) is actually my favorite event, so I try to go with the crowd and have them pump me up,” Lenny said. “I was just trying to go out and hit my routines like I know how, and it’s a good feeling.”

Lenny paced the Flashes with her victory in vault and her overall performance. She took second place overall on floor with a personal best score of 9.875 that also eclipsed the previous team-high mark of 9.800 set by junior Amanda St. John against Northern Illinois.

Lenny also gained a third-place finish on beam as she tied Kent State seniors Kristin Peters and Amy Presan with a score of 9.750. Lenny’s teammates understand how the freshman’s continued success has paid out major dividends for the team this season.

“It’s really helpful to know that she’s confident and she goes out there and hits routines,” Peters said. “To see that a freshman is confident really helps out the whole rest of the team.”

Coach Biggin also commented on Lenny’s excellent performance in the match and what her presence on the team means for Kent State gymnastics.

“(Lenny) has been very solid for us,” Biggin said. “She looks very confident and she has done amazingly well for a freshman coming in because there has been a lot of pressure put on her.”

Other top honors for the Flashes included a first-place finish on the uneven bars with a score of 9.850 for Kristin Peters, which tied the season high she set at Pittsburgh at the beginning of the season. Sophomore Lydia Barrett placed second in the uneven

bars with a personal season-best mark of 9.75.

Senior Jill Kowalski continued her dominance on beam, a notoriously tough event for the Flashes this season, with a first-place finish of 9.8 that tied the team-high mark that she shares with Kristen Peters.

The honors for top competitor of the day belonged to another freshman, this one donning the scarlet and gray. Ohio State’s Rebecca Best took top honors on the floor with a near perfect score of 9.9, as well as second place on beam with a mark of 9.775 and another second-place finish on vault with a score of 9.85.

The Flashes will remain at home for a Friday night showdown against George Washington University at 7 p.m. Until then, the team will reflect on its hard-fought victory to reclaim the coveted All-Ohio trophy and remain perfect in conference play at 3-0.

“It came down to a battle of the wills, and obviously today was our day,” Biggin said. “I’m just very pleased with the overall performance of the team, I think they’re heading in the right direction, getting better each week and becoming a better team every week.”

Contact gymnastics reporter Marcus Barkley at [email protected].