Top-ranked gymnasts seek first MAC tournament title in 7 years


Members of the Kent State gymnastics team cheer during the Blue and Gold exhibition meet in Kent, Ohio on Sunday, Dec. 12. 

Isabella Schreck, Reporter

If her team can do what it’s capable of in the Mid-American Conference championships Saturday, Kent State gymnast Sarah Haxton believes her team can win it all.

“We have a lot of potential,” Haxton, a sophomore, said. “It’s just a matter if we can put it all together in the meet. This team has been really strong this year, so I think we have a really good chance.”

The Flashes are going into Saturday’s meet at Eastern Michigan with a MAC regular season title after posting its third-highest score in program history.

The last time Kent State won the championship was in 2015 with a score of 196.375.

KSU beat Western Michigan 196.850-196.725 Sunday to finish with a MAC record of 5-1 and tie Central Michigan for the regular season title.

“We have a lot of confidence going into [the championships],” junior Rachel DeCavitch said. “We’ve had a great season so far, so we need to trust that and go in and have fun at this meet.”

The Flashes rank second in the conference in the NCAA’s National Qualifying Score (NQS), which is used for deciding placement in the association’s postseason competition. It takes a team’s or individual’s six best scores — including at least three away meets — then eliminates the highest score. The remaining five scores are averaged.

Kent State has the second-best NQS in the MAC at 196.055. Western Michigan, which lost to Kent Sunday, has the MAC’s highest NQS at 196.150. Central Michigan is third at 195.915.

The remaining teams in the MAC are at least .425 points behind KSU.

Competing in the all-around for Kent State is DeCavitch, who is third in the MAC with a NQS of 39.220. She ranks 38th nationally and is in 10th  place or higher on vault, bars and floor in the MAC.

To keep up her intensity for Saturday, DeCavitch said she is working on her mental attitude.

“I’m focusing on keeping my confidence,” she said. “I feel like in the middle of the season, I was struggling with confidence and consistency. So, this week I’m not trying to get in my head but taking it every day at a time.”

DeCavitch was named MAC Gymnast of the Week March 8.

Coach Brice Biggin said the award is “very well deserved.”

“We are so happy with the level of her consistency,” Biggin said. “She truly looks like she’s having fun with it and starting to really trust her ability.”

On floor, freshman Alyssa Guns is coming off a 9.950 from Sunday’s meet, her second highest score of the season. The highest is Gun’s 9.975, set in her first collegiate meet Jan. 28. It was the highest floor score in the MAC in two years. Guns has taken first on floor in four meets this season and ranks 48th nationally.

Guns and junior Karlie Franz both have NQS scores of 9.900, which is tied for third on floor in the conference.

“[Sunday’s meet] definitely boosted my confidence,” Guns said. “I know I am capable of that. I know that if I keep doing what I’m supposed to do, I will be fine when I’m at MACs.”

Preparing for Saturday’s meet, Guns has been working on the basics.

“I’ve been perfecting the little things,” Guns said, “Like pointed toes, straight legs, absorbing my landings so I’m not out of control.”

On the uneven bars, Haxton holds the second-highest NQS in the MAC at 9.870.

“I’m pretty happy with my performance overall,” Haxton said. “Last year I had a couple hiccups here and there, but I learned how to deal with those this year and be a little bit stronger. Even at the beginning of the season I had a couple things here and there. Brice talked to me and said, ‘You know you have to give yourself a chance about things.’ So I’ve really been trying to think about that.”

Haxton posted a career-high 9.900 March 4. The score is the third-best on bars in the conference this year and the highest score in the event from the Flashes this season.

This week in practice, Biggin said, his team is focusing on “relaxing and trusting what they do.”

“We want them healthy and strong and not beat up by the end of the week,” Biggin said. “So our number [of routines] will be pretty small this week in practice, but the intensity is going to be high so that every time they go out there, they should feel like they’re competing a routine on Saturday.”

The championships start at 2 p.m. in Ypsilanti, Michigan. DeCavitch said her team has every chance at coming home victorious.

“We definitely are capable of winning,” DeCavitch said. “It’s just being able to go out there and have confidence.”

Isabella Schreck is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].