After winning the Mid-American Conference regular season title last week the Central Michigan gymnastics team will go for the MAC tournament championship Saturday in DeKalb, Ill. as the top seed.
Head coach Jerry Reighard said he thinks they’re ready by doing mock tournaments at practice.
“I think we are ready, I know the team does,” Reighard said. “We’ve had two MAC championships in the gym already at practice. We haven’t counted a fall, and they’ve done everything we’ve asked for. I need to make sure this team isn’t tired, it’s been a long season.”
The Chippewas are currently ranked 38th in the country. In order to qualify for regionals they need to be 36th. Reighard said he believes with a first place finish in the MAC championship, and a score of 195.7 they can obtain that.
Reighard is excited for the MAC championship but has a boxer’s mentality when it comes to his strategy. He said he would rather see the team go down swinging than play it safe.
“If you let the pressure get to you then you aren’t going to flow,” Reighard said. “In practice today we were guarded, and held back. That’s a two-edge sword. We want the team going 100 percent. We want to be on the edge. All out.”
Under Reighard CMU has won 13 Mid-American Conference titles. The 13th came on St. Patrick’s Day over Western Michigan. For the second year in a row CMU finished undefeated in the MAC.
The desire to compete is one reason why the Chippewas came out on top at the end of the season, according to Reighard.
“Some teams compete and they do really well,” Reighard said. “What has really impressed me with the 2012 team is they enjoy what they do. I think that is a huge advantage for our team. They are comrades in arms, this team loves to see each other do well. They thrive on it, and it’s a real catalyst for us.”
At the beginning of the season the team was plagued with injuries. Five athletes on the team were out with injuries, including senior captain Samantha Piotrowski.
Reighard said he worried his team could rise against the odds and win a championship.
“I was doubtful, I have to admit that,” Reighard said. “I know the team was doubtful. Some of the key people we were competing with when they got injured had some big shoes to fill. This group has worked hard, and is doing skills they’ve never done before. Their work ethic is what solidified it.”
Senior Kristin Teubner has led the team in everything. As a senior captain, she had to. Teubner was crowned MAC gymnast of the Year in 2011, and likely will retain that crown after her performances this year.
Reighard has seen Teubner grow in the last four years, and is proud to have her on the team.
“Kristin has really grown, and matured over the last four years,” Reighard said. “The competitive attitude has really been contagious. She has shown younger athletes how to compete, and has really produced for us.”