Junior Abby Fletcher finished the 2018-2019 gymnastics season placing 12th in the NCAA Regional tournament with the highest scoring on the floor overall. This season, now as one of the four captains of Kent State’s gymnastics team, she and the team look to win the Mid American Conference Championship.

Coach Bryce Biggin said the MAC schedule is the most important part of the season. He said the Flashes are built on consistency, which is important when having such a young team.

“I think it's a realistic goal that we move on to win the regular season championship, which means we have to beat the MAC teams whether it's here or away,” Biggin said. “We talked about consistency and once again, I think we have a team that's built to be consistent. Although we're young and that's going to be a little bit of the question mark ‘can our youth hold up throughout the season?’ If they can, then I think winning the regular season championship is very possible.”

The Flashes finished fourth in the MAC in 2019 and failed to qualify as a team for the NCAA regionals. Fletcher and alumna Dara Williams were the two gymnasts to qualify for the tournament as Kent State finished the season at 38th in the country. In order for teams to qualify, the school needs to be one of 24 ranked schools. 

Of the 21-person team, 12 gymnasts are underclassman. In college, Biggin said gymnastics is more of a team atmosphere. To prepare the underclassman for competition at the college level, Biggin will break up the gymnasts into teams of six – like a real meet – and give each team the same scenario. 

Fletcher, alongside senior Jade Brown, senior Gabby Williams and senior Sammi Nero, were named captains for the 2019-20 season. 

“One thing I really want to focus on with them [the captains], is them just all relaxing. I know they're all really excited and they're really confident in themselves … I want them to really be able to experience it and calm down and really take in their surroundings because it's the beginning of four years for them. So I really want them to have a good experience and really start them off on a great four years,” Fletcher said. 

Brown missed the 2018 season with an Achilles’ heel injury and returned in 2019. Last season, she tied for 1st in the MAC Championship with a season-high score of 9.900. She went on to tie for 11th in a 9.750 on bars during the championship. 

Brown switched up her routine for the upcoming season. Instead of a regular aerial (a type of cartwheel) on the beam, she switched it to a side somi (a type of somersault). 

“I would probably say just trying to maintain what I did last year, but even better. I did very good on floor and bars last year and this year I plan on adding vault and beams. I'm really excited about that,” Brown said. 

Coach Bryce Biggin added that Brown is one of the team’s “biggest improvers” coming into the season.

“She's just come a long way mentally, emotionally and physically. You know, she was coming off of a torn Achilles her sophomore year, so last year she just started getting back into things,” Biggin said. “But she's taken some really great steps in becoming a really good leader this year and stepping up her game. So I think we're expecting a lot out of her.”

Like Brown, Fletcher also made changes to her routine. The junior gymnast changed the choreography including a front full to her floor routine.

“I upgraded my floor routine in the off season, so I'm really excited for that. I have a whole new routine, choreography and the new pass and I'm in some different lineup spots on events,” Fletcher said. “So I'm really looking forward to stepping up on that and I'm really excited for the freshmen to get the experience out in the gym.”

The Flashes first meet was against Northern Illinois Sunday at 1 p.m. at the M.A.C. Center. Their next meet will be Jan.19 at the Lindsey Ferris Invitational at George Washington University.  

Contact Amanda Levine at alevine3@kent.edu

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