No. 21 gymnastics are set to challenge Mid-American Conference opponent Northern Illinois at 7 p.m. tonight in McGuirk Arena.
After taking first place in last week’s Michigan-Illinois Challenge quad meet, the Chippewas are well-equipped to succeed against another Illinois team and better their conference record in hopes of another MAC title.
“The target is on our back this meet,” said head gymnastics coach Jerry Reighard.
The Huskies will be coming into the meet with a 3-1 record. Yet, in all meets, they have failed to score over 192.875. CMU scored a 195.875 last week and will enter this meet with a 3-2 record.
Last year’s meeting between NIU and the Chippewas ended up with a 194.950-193-925 CMU victory in DeKalb, Illinois, with wins in every event except the floor routine.
“Gymnastics teams switch every year,” Reighard said. “It’s very different compared to other sports. The freshmen are usually the healthiest and there are always new freshmen.”
This week’s MAC matchup is especially crucial to the Chippewas because of the early-season MAC upset at Ball State.
“Practice has been exceptional this week,” Reighard said. “We’re getting ready for a more exciting and eventful second half of the season.”
CMU will enjoy its first full week of practice in three weeks, due to three consecutive away meets.
“Being at home will be huge,” Reighard said. “We are more comfortable, and the loud atmosphere will prepare us for championships.”
The Chippewas recorded some great scores in the previous meet, including freshman Kirsten Petzold’s 9.9. Petzold was awarded the MFCU Scholar-Athlete of the week after her stellar performance and her stellar class work.
Some of the lineup, however, was restricted due to injury.
“Our vaulting is going to shuffle around, and Brittany Petzold will be on bars and leading off on the beam,” Reighard said. “We’ve practiced a new dismount due to her shoulder.”
With freshman like Kirsten Petzold performing so well, Reighard has moved some of the freshmen to more events. Taylor Bolender will be starting on the floor after practicing a difficult tumbling passes.
This meet is especially unique. It will be the Royal Rumble and Tumble, which means gymnastics will be competing side by side with the No. 12 wrestling team as it goes against Eastern Michigan.
“We welcome the wrestling team, and we are very excited for all the crowd noise,” Reighard said.
Following this special meet, CMU will travel to Kent, Ohio, to its rival No. 24 Kent State.
The Chippewas have beaten the Golden Flashes the last two seasons as the MAC title typically comes down to the two squads.