Flashes aim to extend winning streak

Amanda Vasil

While practices can prepare the Kent State gymnastics team for the skills and routines they will have to perform in meets, coach Brice Biggin said the best practices are sometimes the meets themselves.

“Until you get put into a couple meets and feel some of the pressure that you feel when you’re competing for the team and not just yourself, it’s not all there,” Biggin said. “Some of our young kids now have enough experience that they do understand how important that is.”

The Flashes (5-3, 4-1 Mid-American Conference) are currently riding a four-meet MAC winning streak and are looking to extend the run to five against Northern Illinois (3-11, 2-3 MAC) at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Biggin said the team built confidence and skills and developed a high level of talent in past meets. The team began the season with a loss to Ohio State and Western Michigan, but sophomore Jill Kowalski said it takes a period of time to gel together as a team.

“We started out rough in the beginning, and it took a couple of weeks to get the hang of it,” she said. “We had trouble last season, too, and we had a lot of underclassmen.”

Along with the myriad of personalities comes a wide variety of skills, which Biggin said the team has a lot of.

“They’ve figured out they do have enough talent,” Biggin said, “but it takes a lot more than that. It takes that desire to do whatever they have to to help their teammates out. We knew the talent level was there, but it takes more than talent to win meets.”

Talent is likened to athletic ability, Biggin said. But the other half of winning meets comes from the team’s mental preparation.

“It’s a very equal balance,” he said. “If they’re not strong enough to perform the skills, it doesn’t matter, mentally, how strong they are. Once that physical talent comes into play, then there becomes a bigger issue of which team is more mentally strong.”

On Sunday, the Flashes will continue to concentrate on their own skills and abilities rather than scouting the Huskies.

“We feel like if we go out and do our job, we’ll be okay,” Biggin said. “If we sit and worry about Northern (Illinois), then we’re not really focused on what we need to be.” Northern Illinois is coming off a third-place finish at the Callaway Bank Cat Classic Feb. 25. and a loss to Western Michigan last weekend. Despite the loss, senior Ashlee Williams was named as MAC Specialist of the Week for her first-place 9.900 performance on the uneven bars.

Ultimately, Biggin said the Flashes will continue applying their mental and physical skills in hopes of defeating Northern Illinois at the M.A.C. Center.

“We feel like we have a team that’s talented enough that if we compete our meet, we’re going to end up on top,” he said. “We just have enough confidence in ourselves.”

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