Gymnastics one step up from last year but one step shy of their goal

Doug Gulasy

Before the season began, Kent State gymnastics coach Brice Biggin said he wanted his team to improve upon its third-place finish in last year’s Mid-American Conference Championships, with the ultimate goal of finishing first.

The team did improve Saturday in the MAC Championships at Eastern Michigan, but it fell short when it came to an overall victory.

The Flashes finished in second place with a score of 194.275, finishing behind Eastern Michigan, which posted a 194.525.

Biggin said earlier this season that Eastern Michigan was a strong contender to win the title on its home floor, and he gave the Eagles credit for a strong meet.

“When you get to big meets, with that many teams competing, you have to be able to go out and not count a fall, and they certainly did that,” Biggin said.

The Flashes were led by junior tri-captain Kristin Peters, who captured two event victories after being named MAC Specialist of the Year. Senior Amy Cucinotta also won first place on the floor.

The Flashes began the meet on bars, and a low team score on the event, usually one of the team’s best events, may have hurt the Flashes the most. The team came in fourth out of the seven teams, despite Peters winning the event and senior tri-captain Julie Huynh tying for fifth.

The Flashes did much better on beam, their next event, finishing with the best score of all the teams. Peters came in first, junior Amy Presan finished right behind her in second and freshman Carly Conroy came in fifth.

The team came in third on floor. Cucinotta came in first, and sophomore Laci Hendress was among five gymnasts who tied for second.

Finally, on vault, the Flashes came in fourth out of the seven teams. Sophomore Rachel Stuck was the only Kent State gymnast to place in the top five on the event, tying for third.

Biggin, who was named MAC Coach of the Year earlier in the weekend, gave his team a lot of credit for nearly coming back to win after the performance on bars.

“I think the team showed tremendous character in literally storming back into the meet,” he said. “We were great on beam and great on floor, and that gave us a chance to win.”

For now, it will be a waiting game to see if the Flashes will be among the competitors in the NCAA Regionals April 14, but Biggin isn’t optimistic about the Flashes’ chances of being one of the six teams there.

“To be honest, I think we have very little shot (of making regionals) right now,” Biggin said. “We should have some gymnasts who will qualify individually, though,” he said, mentioning Peters, Hendress and junior tri-captain Jill Kowalski as three gymnasts who will likely compete in the meet.

Central Michigan came in third in the MAC Championships, followed by Ball State in fourth, Northern Illinois in fifth, Western Michigan in sixth and Bowling Green in seventh.

Contact gymnastics reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].