Gymnastics team learns from last year’s loss, vows to win MAC

Doug Gulasy

Senior Melissa Ruby is one of four seniors on the Kent State gymnastics team. AMANDA SOWARDS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Steve Schirra

Brice Biggin, Kent State gymnastics coach, was unhappy with the way the last gymnastics season ended.

The team, which tied for first in the Mid-American Conference standings during the regular season, came in third place at the MAC Championships in March, finishing behind Western Michigan and Central Michigan.

Biggin promised a different end to this season, saying he believed the team would use its finish last year as motivation.

“We feel we let one slip away last year,” Biggin said. “Going into this year, we feel the girls will be more focused.”

To have a successful season, Biggin said the team has to be more consistent than last year.

“We struggled with our confidence on the beam at the end of last season,” Biggin said. “We need to gain confidence this year by being consistent as a team and being successful throughout the season.”

The Flashes return almost all of their talent from last year for the 2006-2007 campaign, with the notable exception of Carrie Mayle, an all-MAC First Team selection last year, who graduated.

“Carrie was a dynamic gymnast with a lot of skills,” Biggin said. “It’s tough to replace people like that, but we hope our seniors and other gymnasts are up to the task.”

To help replace Mayle’s leadership, Biggin named senior Julie Huynh and juniors Kristin Peters and Jill Kowalski, an all-MAC First team selection last year, captains this year. At the same time, he pointed out the need for the entire team to step up and contribute.

“We expect the captains to be leaders on and off the floor,” Biggin said. “However, when we’ve been successful in the past, we had a balanced attack, so we can’t just rely on one person.”

Another disappointment for last year’s squad was their failure to qualify for the NCAA Central Regionals, the first time in four years Kent State had failed to qualify.

“You qualify for the regionals as one of the top six teams in the region,” assistant coach Kurt Hettinger said. “We need to be more consistent. Talent is one thing, but results are another.”

Biggin said he expects the team’s failure to qualify in last year’s Central Regionals to be an added motivating factor.

“We think about not making it last year all the time,” Biggin said. “We expect a different situation at the end of this year.”

Biggin and his assistant coaches, Hettinger and Sharon Pearson, tabbed Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan as top competitors in the MAC this season, but Biggin predicted big things for his team.

“We expect to win both the MAC regular season title and the MAC Tournament,” Biggin said. “We have a lot of strong kids, and we think they’ll bounce back from last year.”

Contact sports reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].