Kent State's gymnasts revel in berth in NCAA championships in Cleveland
By Elton Alexander
April 4, 2011
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- In true NCAA Tournament fashion, the underdog rose to the top.
Only this time, the sport was women's gymnastics; and the underdog was Kent State.
The Golden Flashes, seeded sixth last weekend in the Ann Arbor Regional, finished second behind Michigan to qualify for the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships, which will be hosted by Kent State at Cleveland State's Wolstein Center, April 15-17.
KSU coach Brice Biggin said Monday afternoon that what may be viewed as an upset by others was no flash-in-the-pan effort by his team.
"Fortunately for us, our girls competed with great confidence," he said. "It was an upset, but we felt we had a decent chance."
Key was the thought of performing one more time before family, friends and fans, particularly for seniors Christina Lenny and Christine Abou-Mitri. The two Broadview Heights natives have competed with each other since they were 8, and now have one last opportunity to shine in Cleveland.
"Believe me, we drilled that into them," Biggin said.
Abou-Mitri was the Mid-American Conference Gymnast of the Year in 2010. Then Lenny stepped up and won that honor this season.
In the process, Kent's gymnastics program has qualified for the NCAA Championships for the first time in school history, and became the first women's gymnastics program in MAC history to do so, as well.
"They have elevated [the program] to where we are right now," Biggin said of the two All-Around gymnasts. "They did their mission."
The 12 teams slated for the NCAA championships include the top three finishers from last season. Defending champion UCLA is seeded second. The No. 2 team last season, Oklahoma, is seeded third, and Alabama is the No. 1 seed. Kent State is seeded 12th.