Gymnasts fall short at regionals

Doug Gulasy

Performing without the rest of their team Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala., junior tri-captains Kristin Peters and Jill Kowalski and sophomore Laci Hendress made a great effort at the NCAA Regionals but fell short of qualifying for nationals.

Still, gymnastics coach Brice Biggin sounded pleased with the way the gymnasts performed.

“These three girls did an outstanding job representing the university, and we’re very proud of them,” Biggin said.

Peters came the closest to qualifying for nationals for Kent State. She scored a 9.850 on bars to tie for fifth, and her score of 9.800 on beam was good enough for a ninth-place tie.

“We felt great about the way Kristin performed,” Biggin said. “(She) came half a tenth short of qualifying for nationals and then performed well on beam, too.”

Kowalski finished 18th in the all-around, but Biggin said he thought her routines could have been scored higher by the judges.

“Jill put together some very good routines,” he said. “But she had the unfortunate distinction of performing after Alabama, so her scores were lower. . Jill performed wonderfully.”

Hendress, performing at the regionals for the first time, tied for 18th place in her only event – the floor exercise.

“Laci looked very confident, looked very poised out there and looked like she had a great time,” Biggin said. “She wasn’t intimidated by the atmosphere.”

Biggin said he expects all three gymnasts to use their experiences to help the team next year.

“We look at them as three kids who are going to be leaders on next year’s team,” he said.

Alabama, No. 3 in the country, won in front of its home crowd and qualified for NCAA Nationals. Oklahoma came in second, topping third place Iowa State in a tiebreaker and earning the second bid to nationals. Michigan State (fourth place), Ohio State (fifth) and Kentucky (sixth) rounded out the competition.

Contact gymnastics reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].