The Petzold Legacy: As Kirsten Petzold's career ends, family reflects on sisters' journey
When senior Kirsten "Kiki" Petzold comes to practice, her older sister’s banner hangs in the gymnastics practice room in the Rose Center as a reminder of her contribution to the program.
Brittany and Kiki Petzold created a lasting legacy in the Central Michigan gymnastics program during the last five years. Brittany graduated from the program in 2014, leading the team to the NCAA Regional Championships in all four seasons.
Kiki continued the Petzold legacy, competing in regionals in her first three seasons. Her senior season and career unexpectedly ended when she suffered a lower-body injury warming up for the first meet of the season against Temple in January.
Since the beginning of Kiki's career, Brittany has been there to support her.
"I was able to guide her through her first couple years at Central," Brittany said. "Everything she was experiencing her first couple years, I had already lived through. It pushed me to work even harder because I knew how much she was watching me.”
Brittany began flipping from couches at her house when she was 3 years old. Soon after, she found her passion for gymnastics. Kiki followed shortly after when she was 1 1/2 years old.
Both sisters trained at the Olympia Gymnastics Academy and were level 10 gymnasts for the private gymnastics club.
Brittany graduated from Eisenhower High School in 2010 and was named 2010 Michigan Graduating Gymnast of the Year. She chose to continue her academic and gymnastics career in Mount Pleasant.
“I chose CMU because of how welcoming and close the girls were,” Brittany said. “I went on a visit there and knew that I would fit in and love it. I loved the coaches and thought they were exceptional and could make me better athlete and person. They were not only good coaches, but like parents to all of us.”
During the health fitness major's career, she was an all-around gymnast, meaning she competed in all four events. In her freshman year, she placed first in the uneven bars event at the Mid-American Conference Championship and received All-MAC honors. In 2012, Brittany was crowned the all-around title at the MAC Championships.
“I love the feeling of competing,” Brittany said. “The adrenaline pumps you up and gets you excited to compete. I love the feeling of being able to do something that not very many people can do. I also just love flipping around and having fun.”
Two years into Brittany’s career, Kiki decided to continue her gymnastics career at Central Michigan alongside her sister.
During Brittany's junior and senior year, she was captain for the Chippewas. Brittany was named MAC Co-Gymnast of the Year in 2013. In senior year, she led the Chippewas in their fifth consecutive MAC Championship alongside her sister.
“My fondest memory performing was one of my last bar routines in my career at the MAC Championships at Eastern Michigan,” Brittany said. “I knew before I even competed that my team was going to win another MAC Championship. I performed my bar routine and the excitement of the crowd after our final bar rotation was unbelievable. I was honored and lucky to be a part of that.”
Head Coach Jerry Reighard said the Petzold pair brought different skills to the program.
“Kiki became a very valuable asset to our program. She is very multi-talented,” Reighard said. “She’s very fast-twitched and she’s smart. Brittany was nose to the grindstone every single day. She had very dynamic goals. She would come in to the gym, do what she needed to do to prepare herself for the weekend, and that was week after week.”
Kiki said the choice to come to CMU became a natural fit and an easy transition.
“Our coaches are the best,” Kiki said. “They will make you improve and be a better gymnast and I really liked that. With my sister already being here, I knew all the girls on the team. It just felt like I fit in already.”
During Kiki's sophomore year, she was named MAC Co-Specialist of the Week on vault. She scored a 9.825 and placed third on vault in the MAC Championships to help lead CMU to the title.
“This team has taught me a lot of things about myself and about what I can do,” Kiki said. “It really pushes you to your limits. It’s really fun competing with everybody because this team forms like a family and you do everything together.”
When recruiting Kiki, Reighard asked Brittany about the sister’s relationship. They talked about how well the sisters got along and if Brittany was alright being teammates with her sister.
“I loved being teammates with my sister,” Brittany said. “I wanted my coach to recruit her so badly. He had asked me several times if I thought it was going to work out being on the same team as her. We have a very close relationship and I think my coach was worried that if she came onto the same team as me, it would ruin that. But I think it brought us even closer."
Sherri Petzold, the mother of the sisters, said Kiki missed Brittany when the older sister left for CMU.
“Those two are so close, they’re like best friends,” Sherri said. “They do everything together and support each other. When Kirsten chose CMU, I know Brittany was so happy about it. She showed her the ropes and helped her learn. Kiki loved it. She missed her sister when she was gone. Things just weren't the same. When she got there, she was really happy to be with her.”
Kiki will be graduating after this year with a major in social and criminal justice and a minor in psychology. Brittany graduated two years ago and is in graduate school in New York pursuing her M.B.A. in management. She is a graduate assistant for strength and conditioning at New York City's Wagner College.
“Both of them have grown tremendously as people through the program and became more independent and strong,” Sherri said. “They are more outgoing than they used to be, they believe in themselves. They have friendships they have made through the years and now they’re family. If they need help, they can always go to them.”