Gymnastics comes in second in Illinois; Reighard calls performance 'lukewarm'
Lukewarm is alright for coffee or for reheating leftover pizza, but a lukewarm performance in a gymnastics meet doesn’t work out so well.
For the Central Michigan gymnastics team, its second place finish on Saturday was not what head coach Jerry Reighard had hoped for going into the weekend. He said the team’s “lukewarm” showing in certain events cost them an overall victory.
“I really felt that we were basically a lukewarm team," Reighard said. "We didn’t really make it undeniable, and that’s what we needed to do."
Finishing in second place with a final score of 194.525, CMU defeated No. 13 Minnesota, but fell to No. 19 ranked University of Illinois.
Part of the reason for the struggles, Reighard said, was the pressure on the team going up against nationally ranked programs.
“It was a pressure-packed meet for us and we were going to have to be at our best, (and) in some cases I felt we were,” Reighard said. “But in some cases I did feel that pressure did get to us.”
The rotation of events was also an issue for the squad, which competed in what is called Olympic-style gymnastics. Although the events are the same, the order of competition is different. CMU began the meet on the balance beam, which typically is the third event during a regular meet. This created some unique problems and may have led to the lower than average scores.
“That’s not a good situation to be in because you’re kind of the guinea pig on both events that way,” Reighard said.
The Chippewas finished the first rotation with a 48.850, behind a 9.825 score from senior Andrea de La Garza. Freshman Emily Heinz contributed a solid score of 9.850 to finish second overall in the event. Scoring above their season average on the beam (48.538), the Chippewas are likely to move up from their No. 14 national ranking with this weekend’s score.
Melissa Fernandez of Illinois won the event with a score of 9.875.
The next rotation saw CMU on the floor exercise, where senior Cheryl Conlin finished fifth overall with a score of 9.800. Although they finished in second place (48.775), Reighard said that the performance didn't go as expected, as the judges counted some missteps against them.
“It was just a really close meet after every rotation,” Reighard said. “We were lukewarm on floor; it really took the first four routines for us to win the judges over.”
Allison Buckley of Illinois won the event with a score of 9.850.
The third event on the night for the squad was the vault (48.700), where freshman Britney Taylor led the group with a 9.800. Taylor’s score was good enough for second place overall behind the University of Illinois’ Amber See (9.825).
“After three events we were in a position that really Illinois was pulling away, so the battle was really between Minnesota and ourselves,” Reighard said.
The final event of the night was the bars (48.200) where de la Garza paced the entire event, claiming first place behind a 9.875. Competing last in the event, Reighard had a message for his senior gymnast.
“You hit, and we come in second place, if you don’t where going to be in third place,” Reighard said. “She had the best score of her entire career, and really proved a lot to me and to her team.”
De La Garza would go on to finish third overall in the all-around with a total score of 39.025.
Next on the docket for the Chippewas may be their biggest test of the season, facing off against conference opponent Kent State at 1 p.m. Saturday in Kent, Ohio. A win and CMU is a lock to claim the MAC regular season championship.
“Kent is definitely the gymnastics rival,” Reighard said, “and we know we have to be our best this week in order to win the regular season.”
Reighard said the key to this week’s practice will be its ability to execute during events and translate that over to Saturday’s meet.