​Gravity-defying: Uneven bars team anchors Chippewa gymnastics team

When Central Michigan gymnastics Head Coach Jerry Reighard talks about his uneven bars team, he refers to the group as the team’s best event.

Reighard said their bond as teammates and the experience on the event gives him confidence in the group. CMU’s uneven bars team entered Sunday's meet against Kent State ranked 18th in the country. It averages a 48.925 — the highest of the four events.

“There’s more experience on this squad than the other three events,” Reighard said. “They’ve been together the longest as an event squad. They lean on each other. It’s not all on one person; there’s six people out there that want the same thing.”

Six gymnasts make up the uneven bar team: Seniors Taylor Bolender, Megan Lamphere and Karlee Teet, junior Rachel Carr, sophomore Bryttany Kaplan and freshman Kasey Janowicz.

The uneven bars event consists of two bars placed at different heights, giving gymnasts the chance to jump from bar to bar to perform an approximately 30 to 45-second routine.

The low bar is set 5.6 feet off the ground and the high bar is 8.2 feet in the air. The bars are made up of a steel frame made of fiberglass with a wood coating.

The uneven bars event is scored on a 10.0 scoring scale, like every other event. Judges seek out how well gymnasts can land handstands, twist their arms and rotate their bodies. They also judge how much their legs resemble perfect straight lines, how well they are “in cone,” or on top of the bar, and how well they stick the landing.

“It requires a lot of strength and mental talk,” Teet said. “It also requires a lot of concentration. It’s not an event you have to go full force into. You can be calm but still be aggressive.”

Kaplan said the hardest part of the uneven bars are the “rips;” the bubbles and blisters that form on gymnasts hands from the bars.

“The hardest part about bars is when your hands are hurting,” Kaplan said. “It’s a complete mental game to block out the pain and finish your assignment anyways. You just have to push through it.”

The uneven bars provide a rewarding feeling, too, when the gymnasts complete their routine.

“Our dismounts, where we release at the end of our routine, is the moment you feel like you’re flying and gravity doesn’t matter,” Kaplan said. “It’s just something so special that we get to experience that nobody else does, especially on bars.”

Bolender earned the team’s highest personal best score at BYU earlier this season with a 9.9. Entering Sunday, Kaplan and Teet were ranked 43rd nationally. Kaplan had an average score of 9.822 and Teet had a 9.803 while Janowicz was tied for 121st.

The uneven bars team has scored above a 49 (out of 50) three times this season, the only event out of the four to do so. It’s highest was a 49.1 scored at the Chicago Style Quad Meet.

“That number is huge to us,” Kaplan said. “We can hit it every single day in practice. It’s just having the confidence to not change what we do in practice going into a meet.”