Gymnastics preparing for fourth straight regional's Saturday

The gymnastics team will be going to their fourth-straight regionals, which start 6 p.m. on Saturday in Seattle.

Head coach Jerry Reighard is pleased with the progress the team is making in practice.

“I think we are doing really well,” Reighard said. “We had a mock meet today; I thought the team looked really good. We scored high; I think we are on the right road.”

The Chippewas had a week to prepare for the MAC tournament when they won. They will have two weeks to prepare for regionals.

In practice, the team is staying sharp by having mock meets.

“The focus and aim of this program has always been to win that MAC tournament and regular season title,” Reighard said. “That’s my job, that’s what I’m here at CMU to do. When you make it to the tournament it’s a different emphasis. You’re competing to make the national stage.”

Even after making the regionals four-straight years, Reighard said he still gets nervous before meets.

“I get nervous before every meet,” Reighard said. “You can prepare all you want to as a coach, but on that Saturday, you turn it over. There is nothing more uncontrollable from a coach’s standpoint than a meet. For those 30 seconds, you just sit back and watch.”

Until six years ago, CMU had to qualify as one of six teams from their region, it included Michigan and all the states south to Louisiana.  The region included 13 states, and made it difficult for CMU to be one of the top six schools to qualify.

Often CMU would be in the top 36 nationally but fail to make the tournament because of the power-house programs in their region. Six years ago the format changed where the top 36 schools in the nation make the tournament.

“I’d have to say we need to get past LSU,” Reighard said. “We are going out here to win this thing. I think it would be feudal for any program or coach to go out and say ‘I’m going to just do my best and see what happens.’ That’s not the way I coach.”

CMU faces a strong region. Defending national champions Alabama has been to the national championship 20 straight years, LSU has made it before to the national championships. The rest of the field - Iowa, Washington, Arizona, and CMU - have never made national championship appearances.

“We are very focused right now,” Reighard said. “This team believes their best days are ahead of them. We haven’t peaked yet. They believe they can do this.”

Reighard said he thinks that freshman Halle Moraw could be a dark horse in the regionals.

“I really think Halle Moraw could be that person,” Reighard said. “She has really put together some good all-arounds. Sometimes as a freshman you have a hard time focusing and refocusing, but I like the way she looks and the judges like her. If she has that 40 minute focus I think she is that person.”

Reighard hasn’t made the national championship. CMU came close when they tied Auburn in 2004, but lost in the tie breaker.

Reighard can’t imagine they made the national championship.

“I don’t think words can express the feelings I’d have personally,” Reighard said. “It’s one of those goals I’ve always had. To make it would be a great feeling.”

Reighard is optimistic about CMU’s chances.

“I think our chances are very good,” Reighard said. “I’m very optimistic, I told my team that if we don’t score a 196 then it’s not going to happen. It’s going to take that kind of effort.”