Kent State saves best for last

By Heather Brocious Record-Courier staff correspo Published:

They say collegiate gymnastics meets are won or lost on the balance beam. One fall often snowballs into a series of poor scores, effectively ending a team's ability to win a meet.

It seemed like that was happening to Kent State as it took on 16th-ranked Ohio State Sunday at the MAC Gymnastics Center. The Golden Flashes had two falls in six routines on the beam, mustering a team score of 47.725 in the event and giving Ohio State a 145.525-144.825 lead entering the fourth and final rotation.

However, the Buckeyes faltered on the beam as well with a score of 48.275 while Kent hit all six of its routines on the floor exercise, scoring 49.000 on the apparatus to give the Flashes a stunning 193.825-193.800 upset of Ohio State.

"I knew that we finished on floor and Ohio State had to finish on beam," said Kent coach Brice Biggin. "I told our girls that we had to go out and hit all six of our floor routines and hope they faltered a bit. We put enough pressure on them with our floor scores to make that happen."

The team scores were dead even entering the final routines for both teams. Kent freshman Heather Langham scored a 9.825 on the floor, but the Buckeyes' Lindsey Vagedes tallied a 9.850 on the beam which seemed to give Ohio State the narrowest of victories.

Instead, Biggin filed an inquiry on sophomore Airelle Hunter's floor routine. Coaches who feel that judges' scores were too low may file a written inquiry to the judges and ask that the score be re-evaluated. In Hunter's case, one judge had scored her routine a 9.70 while the other rated her performance 9.65. The 9.65 score was changed to 9.75, giving Kent a 0.05 addition to its team score and, in the end, a 0.025-point victory.

"We knew that it was going to be very close," said Biggin. "We are very pleased to come away with the victory."

The Flashes managed to pull out the win despite injuries to several key members. All-arounders Krissie Slam and Kristy High were out of the lineup because of an ankle injury and a ruptured Achilles tendon, respectively, while Melissa Leibling was not at full strength because of a twisted knee and Langham has struggled with a sore back.

The gymnasts that did compete, in particular the seniors, made up for the absences with some of their best routines of the season.

Senior Kelly Dezman won her third all-around competition of the season with a score of 39.200. Classmate Susie Stadelman nailed her routines on bars (9.875) and vault (9.650), while fellow senior Arika Bergman started the Kent bars rotation with a career-best score of 9.800.

"We've been waiting for Kelly (Dezman) to break out of her shell and perform the way she's capable of," said Biggin. "She has really stepped up her leadership on this team and performed the way we have always believed she could."

The last time Kent pulled off an upset this big was Feb. 23, 1996, when the Flashes defeated No. 6 Michigan State and No. 19 Ohio State in Kent. However, that year's squad was ranked in the top 20, while this year's Flashes have struggled to find their identity in an injury-plagued season.

"This win was a bigger upset," said Biggin. "Ohio State is a very good team and, even though they did not come in here at full strength themselves, this is a very big win for our program. This starts to give us more confidence."

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