A weekend of firsts for the Flashes

Amanda Vasil

The Kent State gymnastics team will face many firsts this weekend – its first double-meet weekend, its first home meet and its first time facing Central Michigan since defeating the Chippewas at the Mid-American Conference Championship last spring.

The Flashes (2-3, 1-1 MAC) are coming off a 192.375-193.600 loss to George Washington Feb. 12. The team scored high marks despite the loss, as it recorded season-highs on the balance beam, floor exercise and total composite score.

Sophomore Jill Kowalski led the Flashes with her second all-around title, scoring 38.225. She also grabbed two top-five finishes on the bars and beam.

Remaining undefeated on the uneven bars, sophomore Kristin Peters earned her fourth title of the season in the event with a score of 9.700, while junior Amy Presan tied for first on the floor exercise with a mark of 9.800.

High marks weren’t the only thing the Flashes gained from the meet.

“We certainly got some confidence after our last meet at George Washington in regards to our competition,” Kent State coach Brice Biggin said. “Some of the younger kids are finding out week by week what it really means to go out and make big routines when it counts.”

Kent State will use the confidence it built at George Washington to guide it through Friday’s meet at Central Michigan (4-5, 2-2 MAC), Biggin said. In the teams’ last meeting at the MAC Championship, the Flashes nabbed their ninth championship crown with a composite score of 195.000. Central Michigan finished second with 194.650 points.

For the past 12 years, Central Michigan and Kent State have battled for the MAC crown, with Ball State taking the title once. The competitiveness and high skill level of each team has caused a rivalry between them but has not caused any feelings of ill will, Biggin said.

“Each team has a lot of respect for each other,” he said, “but you have to also understand if you win a MAC Championship, you have something to defend. (Central Michigan) is a good team with a lot of discipline.”

Biggin said he anticipates a high level of intensity from Central Michigan, as well as a large home crowd. Although both teams have seen changes in their roster and a loss of skilled seniors, Biggin said the veteran gymnasts will guide the Flashes during this meet.

“We want the upperclassmen to keep the underclassmen calm and confident,” he said. “Central has a loud crowd, and it can be intimidating.”

To finish the weekend, Kent State will face Eastern Michigan, which is ranked No. 2 in the MAC with a 3-5 overall record and a 3-1 MAC record. The Flashes finished behind the Eagles at the Eagle Classic last season.

But before focusing their attention on their first home meet of the season against Eastern Michigan at 2 p.m. Sunday, the Flashes will continue to take one meet at a time.

“We realize that Sunday is a huge meet for us,” Biggin said. “Once we get through Friday, there will definitely be a heightened sense of excitement.”

Ultimately, Biggin said the team will use its assets to get it through the weekend ahead.

“We’re going to rely on the youth of the team and the MAC Championship and ride some of that confidence into the meets this weekend,” he said.

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