Five keys to take away from the Mid-American Conference Gymnastics Championship on Saturday in Ypsilanti.
CMU is at the top of its game. Unlike the tie in last year’s MAC championship, the Chippewas scored a score of 196.475 and didn’t have to share the podium. Kent State was 1.5 points behind in second place. CMU beat Western Michigan by nearly five points. The Chippewas had zero trouble earning the title for the fifth-straight year.
The only roadblock for CMU was Kent State’s Marie Case, who was named MAC Gymnast of the Year, MAC Senior of the Year and MAC All-Around Champion.
Gymnastics events are unpredictable. Last week CMU had one of its worst performances in years on bars. On Saturday, the Chippewas recorded their second-best score in school history. You never know when something might spark the whole team to do well. Sophomore Karlee Teet was second in line on bars and scored a 9.9. Next, junior Taylor Noonan scored a 9.9, followed by sophomore Taylor Bolender (9.875), Brittany Petzold (9.85), and new bars MAC champion, junior Kylie Fagan (9.95).
The Chippewa returning class is promising to say the least. Returners accounted for the top two finishes in every event, including the three 9.9′s on bars – Fagan, Teet and Noonan – and a 9.9 on floor from Bolender. Only seniors Brittany Petzold and Emily Heinz have used their final year of eligibility.
MAC Gymnastics Championships are louder than most football games. With seven teams present Saturday, each brought a strong fan-backing – fans who started tailgating in the early morning hours. Kent State fans were chanting at others from RV to RV at 11:30 a.m. Bowling Green brought hundreds of orange-painted fans, who sparked the Falcons to a third-place finish.
As each team got loud for every routine, their fans competed in volume. In a sport that requires an immense amount of focus, it filtered out the championship contenders from the pretenders.
The Chippewas have arguably their best chance to get into the national championship this season. CMU awaits the NCAA regional championship draw to see where and whom they will compete against en route to the national championship in Birmingham, Ala. The draw will be at 3 p.m. on Monday, with possible locations including Athens, Ga., Minneapolis, Minn., Fayetteville, Ark., State College, Pa., Baton Rouge, La. or Seattle, Wash. Round one of the NCAA tournament kicks off April 5.