The Kent State gymnastics team put together its best meet performance of the year Friday night, posting a season-best score in a 196.250-192.100 win over Ball State in its annual Flip For the Cure meet at the M.A.C. Center.
Sophomore Whitnee Johnson led the Golden Flashes (5-0 Mid-American Conference) to their seventh straight win, claiming the all-around with a 38.975. Her highest score of the evening came on the balance beam, where she took first place with a 9.875. Johnson also placed third on vault behind a pair of teammates, sophomore Chelsea Drooger and senior Lauren Wozniak.
"We are very happy with our win today," said Johnson, who was named MAC Co-Gymnast of the Week last week. "It was a great night for us, but there is always room for improvement. We are a good team, but we can always be better."
Senior Rachel Guida -- the MAC Specialist of the Week a week ago -- put on yet another stellar performance on the uneven bars, scoring a career-best 9.925. Her top score was followed by senior Lindsey Runyan (9.900)
Kent State placed four of the five top gymnasts in the floor exercise, with junior Marie Case leading the charge. She tied her season-high for the second time this year, scoring a 9.925, and helped the Golden Flashes set a new season-high floor total of 49.350.
Next up for Kent State is the Eagle invite on Saturday in Ypsilanti, Mich.
Kent State (5-8) rallied to score four runs in the fourth inning to defeat Quinnipiac 4-1 Sunday morning at Eddie C. Moore Sports Complex, and finished 3-2 at this weekend's USF Under Armour Invitational.
"It was a good come-from-behind win and allowed us to keep the momentum from our win against Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday," KSU head coach Karen Linder said. "To be able to come back like that two days in a row, especially playing at 9 in the morning (Sunday), is awesome."
Quinnipiac (2-7) took an early 1-0 lead after scoring a run in the bottom of the first inning off Kent State starter Lauren McNeil. That is the only run the Bobcats would score, as McNeil and Emma Johnson held them scoreless the rest of the way.
The Golden Flashes, who left six runners on base in the first four innings, got some timely hits in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead. Shelbi Tilton delivered an RBI single to tie the game, then Lauren Balodis singled home a pair of runs to put Kent State ahead to stay.
Johnson (4-4) earned her third victory of the weekend for the Flashes. She had four strikeouts, did not allow a run, and gave up just two hits in 3.2 innings of relief duty.
Johnson entered in the fourth inning and inherited a pair of base runners. After walking the first batter she faced, Johnson got out of the jam with a fielder's choice at the plate and a pop up.
Kent State split a pair of games Saturday, dropping a 9-3 contest to Georgia State then bouncing back for a 3-1 win over Florida Gulf Coast.
Abbey Ledford went 4-for-4 against Georgia State, accounting for more than half of the Flashes' seven hits. McNeil took the loss for the Flashes, allowing three runs in one inning of work.
Against Florida Gulf Coast, the Flashes received a brilliant performance on the mound from Johnson, who allowed just two hits and struck out 10.
"Emma had one of the best performances of her career, throwing a two-hitter against a very good team in Florida Gulf Coast," Linder said. "It should have been a one-hitter, but there was a bad hop on a grounder in the seventh that would have been a routine play."
After Florida Gulf Coast scored a run in the third, Tilton tied the game with an RBI single in the bottom of the frame. Kent State then scored a pair of runs on an error and an RBI single by Ledford.
Ledford was superb at the plate in both games, reaching safely in all eight of her plate appearances. She finished the day with seven hits, two RBI, and a stolen base.
Kent State also split a pair of games on Friday, topping Eastern Kentucky 4-2 then falling to Illinois-Chicago 2-1.
Senior Lauren Grimes delivered a two-run single in the top of the seventh inning to complete a comeback victory to get the day started. Freshman Erika Warren went 2-for-3 with an RBI double, and Johnson tallied eight strikeouts while throwing her fourth complete game of the season.
McNeil was the hard-luck loser against Illinois-Chicago, allowing two earned runs on seven hits with three strikeouts in six innings.
Shawn Clark has been promoted to run game coordinator by first-year Kent State head coach Paul Haynes. Clark joined the football staff in early January as the offensive line coach.
"(Offensive coordinator Brian) Rock and I agreed that coach Clark's experience would really benefit us in the overall preparation of our run game," Haynes said. "Coach Clark has a proven record of success with his offensive lines, and his long-term vision for the offense has him prepared for this task."
Prior to Kent State, Clark spent four seasons as the offensive line coach at Purdue and six seasons as the offensive line coach at Eastern Kentucky.
Following his third season at Purdue, two Boilermakers linemen were selected in the 2012 NFL Draft, while three of his Eastern Kentucky linemen went on to play in the NFL.
Clark began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Louisville in 2001 and 2002, where he first worked with Haynes. He later worked with Rock at Purdue.
In preparation for the 2013 season, Kent State began its 6 a.m. workouts on this morning. Spring practice starts on April 2. The Golden Flashes are coming off their first bowl appearance in 40 years and a program-record 11-win season.
TRACK & FIELD
Multiple school records were broken, and two athletes moved into position to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships as Kent State was in action at the Alex Wilson Invitational and Virginia Tech Qualifier over the weekend.
Junior Ann Marie Duffus and senior Melinda Sawnor were successful in moving into the top 16 in the nation in one event each to qualify for next weekend's national meet.
Duffus stole the show for the Flashes by turning in a pair of record-breaking performances at the Alex Wilson Invitational in South Bend, Ind. On Friday evening, Duffus leaped 20-9.25 in the long jump, which is good for 12th in the nation this season and shattered the previous Kent State record by more than 10 inches.
Sawnor entered the weekend ranked 23rd nationally in the 800-meter run but was able to shed more than a half-second off her personal-best to run a 2:05.95 and move into the 16th and final qualifying spot.
The school record was also broken in the 4x400 relay as Taylor Farquhar, Lynnese Beyan, Erica Hutson, and Shanequa Williams clocked a 3:41.59.
Next weekend's NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. will conclude the indoor season for the Flashes. The qualifying lists for the meet will be finalized in the next few days.
Sophomore Jackie Leppelmeier has been named MAC Women's Scholar Athlete of the Week for the week of Feb. 18-24.
An exercise science major with a 3.89 cumulative GPA, Leppelmeier scored 15 points and claimed her first individual conference title as Kent State 's women repeated as champions at the MAC Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Jim Phelan, owner and Chief Executive Officer of Phelan Insurance in Versailles and a former Kent State University football player, was presented a Champion of Life award by the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Since its inception in 1999, the GoDaddy.com Bowl has given numerous Champion of Life awards. Honorees have achieved great success in their chosen field through dedication and hard work. They have overcome many obstacles that have stood in the path of success and have given a great deal back to the community and country.
"The support of our Kent State community and alumni plays a critical role in the success of our student-athletes, but it is also something that we appreciate to the greatest degree," said KSU Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen. "The Phelan family's support has been a key contributor to the continued growth and success experienced by the department."
Phelan, a 1965 Kent State graduate, is a long-standing member of the National Athletic Development Council at Kent State and KSU's Varsity 'K' organization.
"The Phelan family's unwavering leadership and steadfast support of Kent State athletics is helping to ensure our student-athletes realize success academically and maintain a nationally known athletic reputation," added Executive Director of Athletic Advancement Matthew Geis.
In 2007, Phelan gave the leadership gift for the Varsity 'K' Room renovations project and has helped to attain additional gifts for this project. Most recently, Phelan and former teammate George Jenkins gave a combined gift towards the Football Enhancement Fund for the Hall of Fame Plaza in the south end of Dix Stadium. The plaza honors Kent State's football greats and includes Varsity 'K' Hall of Fame inductees, retired jersey honorees and NFL standouts.
The Second Annual Kent State Athletics Scholarship Auction will take place on center court in the M.A.C. Center on Friday, May 3.
The event will be emceed by sports broadcaster Jeff Phelps (1982 KSU grad), and will feature silent and live auctions as well as entertainment by comedian Mike Polk Jr. (2001).
The reception and silent auction begin at 6:45 p.m., followed by a strolling dinner starting at 7:30 and the live auction at 9.
The auction will have items for everyone, including a resort vacation for two, a Napa Valley VIP weekend experience, an ESPY Awards Package, and a 2014 NCAA Men's Final Four Package. There will also be a raffle to win a trip with the Kent State football team to its Sept. 14 game at LSU. The package includes a flight with the team, hotel accommodations, game tickets and sideline passes.
Tickets to the Second Annual Kent State Athletics Scholarship Auction are on sale now for $100 per person. All proceeds benefit student-athlete scholarships. Spots can be reserved by registering online at www.supportgoldenflashes.com, or call 330-672-8399.