Floor routine, opponents’ flaws lead to victory

Marcus Barkley

Sophmore Amy Presan performs her routine on the beam during Sunday’s meet against Northern Illinois. The Golden Flashes pulled together as a team to beat the division rival Huskies for their first confrence win of the season. Daniel Doherty | Daily Kent S

Credit: Ron Soltys

The Kent State gymnastics team needed a little bit of help from Northern Illinois and a solid final floor routine to capture its first conference win at home Sunday at the M.A.C. Center. The team edged the Huskies with a final score of 193.475-192.675.

“You don’t ever want to depend on another team having a bad event,” Kent State coach Brice Biggin said after the match. “We needed (Northern Illinois) to make mistakes to win.”

The team looked strong after its first two events on the vault and the uneven bars, but struggled for the second meet in a row on the beam.

“In three events, we looked like the team we should be, but a major slip up on beam and it almost cost us the meet,” Biggin said.

Kent State got out to a 97.375-96.6 lead after the first two events, largely in part to a scary moment where Northern Illinois senior Amanda Johnson struck the end of the vault bar and needed to be carried off by emergency paramedics. The injury caused a large delay in the meet. Biggin said a delay and injury like that can’t shake a team’s confidence or rhythm.

“Luckily, really you don’t see those types of injuries too often. (The team) can’t use excuses, to be honest.”

After the injury, the team came out on the beam and continued its inconsistency, with six out of the eight girls falling during their routines. A strong performance by sophomore Brittany Kopp and an event high score of 9.8 by senior Jill Kowalski helped the Flashes going into the floor routine.

“We felt confident for sure (going into the final floor routine),” Kowalski said. “We just had to regain confidence.”

With the team leading the crowd into a chant of “floor,” the Flashes regained their momentum entering the final event, the floor routine.

After the dust had cleared, juniors Laci Hendress and Amanda St. John, along with Kowalski topped the season high mark of 9.750 set by Hendress at the first meet at Pittsburgh. Junior Rachel Stuck and freshman Christina Lenny managed to tie their season best, giving the team an overall 48.875 total score on floor and the win. Lenny also placed top honors in vault with a 9.850, capturing the attention of her coach.

“Christina Lenny did well today,” Biggin said. “That’s two weeks in a row that she’s been the vault champion. She also did a great job on floor.”

Biggin also credited Kowalski’s stellar overall performance, which saw her take second in uneven bars (in a 6-way tie), second in floor and first in beam with a score of 9.8, tying her season best, as a major factor to the Flashes’ success.

“Jill Kowalski keeps being a rock,” Biggin said. “She’s been a senior that just doesn’t make any mistakes.”

Kowalski was excited with the team’s performance and saw the highly contested meet as a positive.

“It was a nail biter for sure (but) we got the win and that’s good,” she said. “Each meet is a learning experience.”

The Huskies were lead by junior Leah Johnson, who took home a second place finish on vault and first place finishes on uneven bars, floor and all-around. Other Kent State gymnasts receiving individual honors were junior Stacey Kalberg, senior Amy Presan and senior Kristin Peters on uneven bars and freshman Christine Abou-Mitri, who placed third in vault.

The Flash Gymnastic team now looks ahead to Friday’s meet at 7 p.m. against Ball State in the Cardinal Classic. Ball State is currently 0-2, with losses against Western Michigan and Illinois State at home last Friday.

Though Biggin is looking forward to the meet, he knows that his team has room to improve and a small window in which to accomplish that.

“We need to make some big corrections (and) we only have three days of work.”

Contact gymnastics reporter Marcus Barkley at [email protected].