Flashes fight back against Panthers

Doug Gulasy

Gymnastics coach Brice Biggin talked last week of the importance of getting out to a good start in the Flashes’ meet Friday against Pittsburgh. He said he wanted the Panthers to have to come back if they wanted to win.

What he didn’t expect, however, was his own team having to come back if it wanted to win.

Come back they did, however, as the Flashes defeated Pittsburgh 194.950-193.375 with a strong final event to move their record to 8-2 on the season.

Some familiar faces led the team in the meet. Junior tri-captain Jill Kowalski won her sixth all-around title of the year and her third in a row, and junior tri-captain Kristin Peters won two first-place event titles. However, the victory was a team effort, as several other gymnasts scored highly for the Flashes.

The Flashes began the meet with a strong performance on vault, recording their highest vault score of the season. Freshman Brittany Kopp’s first-place score of 9.875 was good enough for ninth place in Kent State gymnastics’ all-time record book. Sophomore Stacey Kalberg tied for second and freshman Lydia Barrett tied for fourth.

Next up was bars, and the Flashes struggled, losing the lead they had garnered with their vault performance, as two falls hurt the overall team score. Peters tied for first place, Kowalski finished in third and senior tri-captain Julie Huynh and junior Amy Presan tied for fourth.

As the Flashes faltered on bars, usually one of the team’s best events, Pittsburgh was putting in a strong performance at vault, which gave the Panthers a 97.275-97.000 lead after two events.

The Flashes tried to make up some of the deficit on the balance beam, and they put in a strong performance. Peters took home first place, Presan finished in second, Kowalski finished in fourth and sophomore Laci Hendress finished in fifth.

Still, Pittsburgh put in a great performance on floor, while the Flashes performed well on beam, yet the Panthers widened their lead to 146.225-145.800. Things looked grim for the Flashes, as they needed both a great performance on floor and a Pittsburgh miscue on beam.

They got both. The Flashes put up a season-high score of 49.150 on the floor, with no gymnast scoring lower than a 9.725. Hendress tied for first place, senior Amy Cucinotta finished in third place and Kowalski and sophomore Rachel Stuck tied for fourth.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh struggled with falls on beam, allowing the Flashes to win by their final margin.

Contact gymnastics reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected]