MAC season comes to an end with fifth-straight win

Amanda Vasil

Junior Julie Huynh prepares to swing herself onto the high bar of the uneven bars during a meet at the M.A.C. Center Sunday afternoon. Kent State defeated Northern Illinois 193.950-193.300. ALLIEY BENDER | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

The Kent State gymnastics team extended its Mid-American Conference winning streak to five yesterday afternoon as it defeated Northern Illinois 193.950-193.300 in the final conference meet of the season.

The Flashes (6-3, 5-1 MAC) beat the Huskies (3-12, 2-4 MAC) in every event but the balance beam in which Northern Illinois scored 48.650 to Kent State’s 48.175. Sophomore Jill Kowalski placed third with 9.775.

“We haven’t had to count a fall in a few meets, and we had to count one on the beam today, so that definitely put us back a little bit,” Kent State coach Brice Biggin said.

On the uneven parallel bars, Kent State took the top three places. Sophomore Kristin Peters finished first, tying her personal-best 9.900, while Kowalski placed behind her with 9.850. Junior Julie Huynh tied Northern’s Ashlee Williams for third place with 9.775.

The team faced numerous injuries yesterday. Sophomore Amy Cucinotta sprained her ankle in practice before the start of the meet. Senior Carrie Mayle also struggled with back injuries, causing her to forego competition in the all-around.

Freshman Stacey Kalberg stepped in for Mayle on the beam and floor exercise, competing in the first all-around competition of her career. On the vault, Kalberg took first with a personal-best 9.875. Peters finished close behind her with 9.825.

The decision to place Kalberg in the final events was split-second decision, Biggin said.

“I didn’t know I was going in (on the beam) until 10 seconds before,” Kalberg said. “(Biggin) came up to me and said ‘Are you ready?’ and I said, ‘Ready for what?’ and then he said I was going in on beam. It was kinda hard at first, but you realize that your whole team is there backing you up, and even if you do make a mistake, they’re right there with you.”

Cucinotta took a first-place finish on the floor exercise with a score of 9.825, while freshman Laci Hendress placed second with 9.800.

Biggin said the team reacted well to Mayle’s injury and fought hard both physically and mentally to pull through for the win. Getting healthy is very important, as the team goes into its last meet of the season, he said.

The Flashes will face No. 5 nationally ranked Oklahoma at 7 p.m. Friday at the M.A.C. Center. In their last meeting on Jan. 21, 2005, the Flashes fell to the Sooners (8-6) 194.800-188.475.

Biggin said the team will continue to build up its strengths.

“If we go out there and perform well on routines, we’ll have every opportunity to win the meet,” he said.

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