Three gymnasts to compete at regionals; team misses meet for first time in four years

Amanda Vasil

While Kent State gymnastics coach Brice Biggin has stressed the importance of a team mentality – rather than individual mentality when competing all season – three gymnasts will need do just the opposite tonight.

Senior Carrie Mayle and sophomores Kristin Peters and Jill Kowalski will compete in the NCAA Regional Championship without the physical support of their teammates.

“You still have the same things to do, and I still know that the school and my team are rooting me on, even though they’re not there,” Mayle said. “I still want to do it for (the team), but it’s going to be different performing but not performing for them and not having them there. It’s easier to open up and show your personality when the team’s there backing you up.”

Now, Mayle and Kowalski will be individually representing Kent State in the all-around competition, while Peters competes on the uneven bars. And while each gymnast said she was excited about competing in Baton Rouge, La., they also agreed the experience would be more exciting with the whole team there.

“I always look to my teammates to give me a little support, and I always want to do it for them,” Peters said. “Now, we’re still representing Kent State, but you have to find it in your heart to do it for yourself.”

Part of this dedication already occurred, as they sacrificed their Spring Break to practice – without the rest of the team.

“This week of practice, the team wasn’t in here, and it was harder to get through,” Mayle said. “The meet itself won’t be harder because it’s the same thing. The teams are really good, so it’s really neat to go down and be a part of that.”

Competing teams in the Central Region are nationally ranked No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 7 Louisiana State, No. 16 Penn State, No. 20 Kentucky, No. 28 Michigan State and sixth-seeded Ohio State.

“When we go down there, we can’t lose anything,” Mayle said. “We can only gain because we go in as the underdogs. There’s still pressure because you don’t want to go in and embarrass yourself.”

As the season ends, Biggin said he’s anxious to compete because the gymnasts have all had a tough season, and it’s been even harder on the three competing tonight.

“It’s been emotionally and physically and mentally a struggle for them,” Biggin said. “They’re tired; it’s been a long season. They’re excited, but at the same time, it’s a lot more difficult when they’re used to the entire team being there with them.”

Ultimately, Mayle said she expects to stay at the same pace as the other schools and perform the routines to the best of their ability.

“I’m hoping that we all go down and have a meet that we’re capable of and hit every event,” Mayle said. “The ultimate goal would be for us to make nationals, but if that doesn’t happen, then I hope we can go out and represent Kent State well.”

Contact assistant sports editor and gymnastics reporter Amanda Vasil at [email protected].