‘They battled all day’: Gymnastics takes third in conference championships


Matthew Brown

Kent State senior Rachel DeCavitch leaps into a vault during the Gymnastics MAC Tournament March 18, 2023. The Kent team finished the tournament in third place.

Michael Neenan, Reporter

The Kent State gymnastics team finished in third place in the Mid-American Conference Championships Saturday – which marks the first time the team has not won a conference championship hosted at home.  

The Flashes posted a final score of 196.175 behind Ball State’s 196.325 and Central Michigan’s 196.525.

Western Michigan came in fourth place with 195.800, followed by Bowling Green in fifth place with 195.450, Eastern Michigan ended in sixth place with 195.175 and Northern Illinois in last place with 193.925.

“I really can’t be more proud of them,” coach Brice Biggin said. “I thought they battled all day. I thought they competed really well I thought in a very difficult situation with the expectations on them. They came out and did a phenomenal job.”

The Flashes finished the season with a 6-9 overall record and a 3-3 record in conference play.

In total, five KSU gymnasts recorded a 9.900 or over in an event.

Kent State finished in first on bars with a season-high of 49.450. Senior Rachel DeCavitch led the event for the Flashes with a career-high of 9.925 for the rotation. 

“I just tried to go out and trust my routine,” DeCavitch said. “I’ve really been working on cleaning it up with keeping my legs together and building the momentum for my teammates who had gone before me really helped with the judging.”

Following the regular season, DeCavitch was named to the All-MAC second team and was a finalist for the MAC senior gymnast of the year award, leading the team in total points scored on the season.

Kent State senior Rachel DeCavitch flips through the air as she dismounts from the uneven bars during the Gymnastics MAC Tournament March 18, 2023. The Kent team finished the tournament in third place. (Matthew Brown)

“Rachel has been such a great gymnast for us,” Biggin said. “I don’t know that she’s got all the recognition at times that she truly deserves. And for her to put together that bar routine at that moment was just so special.”

Junior Sarah Haxton and freshman Nastia Rudnitskaya posted 9.900 on the bars – a career-high for Rudnitskaya.

“At the beginning of the year when we talked with that bar group, we knew that there was talent,” Biggin said. “We knew the heart was there with those kids. They’ve worked really hard, and I’ve been really tough on them. But they never gave up hope. They never gave up their confidence, and it was just so gratifying to see them today.”

Kent State junior Sarah Haxton competes in the uneven bars event during the Gymnastics MAC Tournament March 18, 2023. The Kent team finished the tournament in third place. (Matthew Brown)

The Flashes posted a score of 49.275 on the floor. Sophomore Alyssa Guns and senior Karlie Franz each scored a 9.900 – both were named to the All-MAC Second team.

“I’m a little bit disappointed but it’s okay because there were some really high highs from today,” Guns said. “I perform really well on floor and not bad on beam so there are some things to be proud of for sure.”

Franz has now scored seven-straight 9.900s or over on the floor.

“It’s just important that we fought for each other and we had each other’s back,” Franz said. “I think that’s kind of what’s running through my head right now is just how proud I am of everyone and just how hard we fought till the very end.”

Franz finished second in all-around scoring with 39.450 and was named as a finalist for MAC Gymnast of the Year after the meet.

On the vault, Kent State’s next highest-scoring rotation, the Flashes finished with a score of 48.975. MAC Specialist of the Year finalist junior Kyndall Gilbert led the event for KSU with a 9.850. 

KSU scored its lowest on the beam with a 48.475.

Kent State sophomore Alyssa Guns competes in the beam event during the Gymnastics MAC Tournament March 18, 2023. The Kent team finished the tournament in third place. (Matthew Brown)

DeCavitch led the team again in scoring for that event with a 9.875.

After the meet, Biggin reflected on the team’s performance this season. 

“I don’t think we competed the way we were capable of,” Biggin said. “But I thought we did a lot of really good things and I thought we continued to build confidence throughout the year.”

Biggin said the fan turnout this season has been “incredible.”  

“We had a huge alumni group that came back, and I’m talking to alumni from 40-50 years ago,” Biggin said. “The parents of the kids here, friends and family. We, by far, had the greatest cheering section that I could have ever hoped for. I am so thankful for literally each and every one of them and what they did to help motivate our team.”

Franz said “the fans were unreal.”

“I’ll never forget walking out and seeing everybody cheering for us and having our back,” Franz said.

A select few Kent State gymnasts may be selected to compete in the NCAA Regional Gymnastics Championships from March 29 through April 1.

The 2023 NCAA women’s gymnastics selection show, which announces the gymnasts set to compete in each regional championship, will be streamed at noon Monday on NCAA.com. 

Michael Neenan is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected].