Gymnastics team using Area 51 as inspiration while preparing for NCAA regionals

Area 51 in Nevada is a government military base rumored to house alien starships and experiments.

Area 51 in Mount Pleasant is home to the Central Michigan gymnastics team. It’s where the team trains during the season.

Head coach Jerry Reighard said Area 51 has a special meaning to the team.

“We have a big Area 51 sign in our gym,” Reighard said. “That’s taken from the place in Nevada. For us Area 51 means five individual championships and one team championship. That’s exactly what we worked very hard for. That’s been the goal since day one to win every event and we came very close.”

CMU nearly claimed all six titles.

Kristin Teubner, Taylor Noonan, Brittany Petzold and Meaghan McWhorter all claimed titles at the Mid-American Conference tournament.

The titles kept coming as Reighard won MAC Coach of the Year.

“That’s a result of what my team has done,” Reighard said. “Without their effort and hardwork, we wouldn’t have done what we did. It’s very gratifying because the other coaches vote on that. They recognized what our team effort was.”

March 26 the team sat down together to watch the NCAA selection show that announces the gymnastics NCAA regionals. CMU was the last team announced.

“We were all around the selection show,” Reighard said. “The whole team was there, it was very exciting. We knew we were in, when they kept announcing regions and we weren’t called we just looked around and wondered where we would go. It was just trying to figure out where they were sending us.”

CMU was selected in the Washington region as a six seed, and with defending national champions Alabama in the region. The regionals begin April 7.

“It’s funny, every regional that we have qualified for, Alabama has been in it,” Reighard said. “We have a great relationship with their coaching staff.”

The field also includes LSU, Arizona, Washington and Iowa.

Reighard have already been able to watch Alabama and LSU in action this year.

“The SEC has a lot of television coverage,” Reighard said. “A lot of the coaches including myself has seen the SEC compete twice, and so we know what they can do. When it comes down to it, those teams are at the most a half of tenth better per routine, which isn’t a lot. We have to be at our best, but that’s what we expect to do.”

Kent State was selected as a five seed, even though CMU won the Mid-American Conference regular season and tournament titles.

Reighard said he wasn’t upset or surprised at that selection.

“It’s not surprising,” Reighard said. “Once you get past the top 18 spots, it really doesn’t make a difference. We’ve always known Kent State produces high scores at home, that’s what gave them the bump in RQS that we didn’t have. Head to head we’ve handled them twice though.”

This week the Chippewas are perfecting their routines as they have another week left before regionals.

“We are preparing exactly how we prepared for the MAC tournament,” Reighard said. “We are really honing in on the first part of our routines, and making it perfect. We will be putting the full routine together soon, and looking to improve a half a tenth better each routine.”


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