Kent State flying high into NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships in Cleveland
By Elton Alexander
April 15, 2011
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Kent State women's gymnastics coach Brice Biggin has received a lot of glad hands and backslaps for leading the Golden Flashes into this weekend's 12-team NCAA Championships at the Wolstein Center.
But none was as welcome as the one earlier this week from longtime KSU golf coach Herb Page.
"Herb came up to me the other day and said, 'You're with the rest of us now,' " a beaming Biggin said. "Coming from Herb, who is the coach of coaches at Kent, that was special. That means a lot."
Gymnastics joins other successful KSU programs like wrestling, field hockey, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's golf and baseball that have all advanced to NCAA Championships in recent years.
Biggin spoke Thursday from the floor of the Wolstein Center, where he and his team are the clear underdog beside favorites Alabama, UCLA and Oklahoma. Opposing coaches searched him out to say congratulations and to wish him good luck, understanding it is no small feat for a program like Kent to stand with the sport's elite.
When asked how many of the 12 teams at the championships his Golden Flashes had competed against this season, Biggin did not have to ponder the question long.
"One. Michigan," he said.
But that does not mean the competition hasn't noticed the Golden Flashes.
Several coaches mentioned Kent State as they spoke about the upcoming championships -- much of it unsolicited.
"Being the new person, you're always wondering, 'Do they believe in us? Do they think we're good enough? Do they think we should be here?' " Biggin said.
"But the amount of support we have had from the other coaches, coaches who have probably never seen us before, coaches from great programs like UCLA and Alabama, those two in particular called us very early and said how excited they were for us and what it means for our sport. It's nice to have the backing of your peers."
The favorites remain defending champion and No. 2 seed UCLA, top seed Alabama and No. 3 Oklahoma.
The four teams that have won all of the previous 29 gymnastics titles are in Cleveland, led by Georgia (10 titles) and Utah (nine). UCLA and Alabama are the others. KSU is the only first-time entry in the field.
"It has been surreal, a whirlwind," said Biggin, a 20-year coaching veteran. "Co-hosting this event has added to the pressure, to make sure the championships come off in the right way. The fact it has never been held in this area is big in itself, but to have the opportunity to bring a team here as well, the first time in history, there's just a lot of things we've had to do that we have never done before."
All that's left now is the competition, which begins today with the first semifinals at noon.