Haxton leads KSU gymnasts at NCAA regionals


Courtesy of Aliza Dutt

Kent State senior Sarah Haxton warms up on beam during the gymnastics competition against Bowling Green at the M.A.C. Center on Feb. 20, 2022.

Isabella Schreck, Reporter

Kent State gymnastics coach Brice Biggin said he felt goosebumps after seeing sophomore Sarah Haxton’s 9.900 performance on the uneven bars at the NCAA regional.

“I just felt so good for her because of the time and effort that she’s put in,” Biggin said. “That’s the type of gymnast she is. I certainly hope she was just completely thrilled with herself.”

Kent State didn’t qualify for the regionals as a team, but four KSU gymnasts earned an invitation to the regionals as individuals. Haxton’s ninth-place finish among 54 gymnasts was the Flashes’ best finish. Haxton would have needed to post the highest score among individuals whose team didn’t qualify to make the nationals but tied for fourth.

Biggin said he has seen Haxton blossom this year.

“Her freshman year, we knew she had some talent, but the big thing we saw was her heart,” Biggin said. “She’s a young lady who truly cares about the sport and the team. This year, we saw her start to develop more mental toughness and more trust in herself.”

Also competing individually for Kent State was junior Karlie Franz, junior Rachel DeCavitch and freshman Alyssa Guns. The Flashes competed against gymnasts from 14 teams in the Central Region March 31 at Auburn.

“It’s difficult on individuals that aren’t with a team because they’re coming in and practicing on their own,” Biggin said. “It’s a different feeling for them when they’re used to being with their teammates. They did a great job of coming in and understanding what they needed to do.

“[Our focus] was making sure they understood that they belonged there. They may not have the name of the Olympic gold medalist, but their gymnastics speaks for themselves. We talked about taking pride in yourselves and in your university.”

“I cannot be more proud of the job [our team] did and the effort they put in. It was all about representing the program the right way when we got down there, and they represented us extremely well.”

Franz tied for 20th out of 53 individuals on the floor exercise with a score of 9.875. Guns finished 35th on floor at 9.775.

In the all-around, DeCavitch placed 12th with a score of 38.900.

Florida, which had posted the highest score from any team in the NCAA this season, placed first in the central region with 198.125.

Biggin said he looks back at this season very fondly.

“We had so many good meets this year, and the team worked well with each other,” Biggin said. “It was frustrating [placing fifth] at the MAC championships because we didn’t compete up to our expectations. But, we did so many positive things this year. We grew as a team, and I hope we can continue to do that.”

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