Gymnasts look to prove themselves at NCAA Regional
Earlier this week, the Central Michigan gymnastics team received a bid to extend their season two more weeks to compete in the NCAA Regional in Iowa City, Iowa on April 2.
Central Michigan, ranked 35th in the country, qualified for regionals by finishing their season ranked within the top 36 teams in the country. The Chippewas have made regionals for eight consecutive seasons. Their Regional Qualifying Score was 195.440.
“We’re all just really excited about it,” said junior Caroline Fitzpatrick. “We’ve worked so hard to get to this point and fought the entire year past different obstacles and we’re ready to show the rest of the NCAA our team, how far we’ve come and how hard we’ve worked.”
Regionals will consist of six teams — No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 12 Nebraska, No. 13 Arkansas, No. 19 Iowa and MAC-rival No. 30 Kent State.
“This year, we’re definitely going in with the goal of not committing any major mistakes,” said Head Coach Jerry Reighard. “That really hurt us at championships when we had some falls on balance beams. You’re not going to be in any offensive position to help yourself if you’re not doing your best gymnastics.”
At the Mid-American Conference championships last weekend, the Chippewas placed fourth out of seven teams. They had an overall team score 195.6, their second best number this season.
“We’re all really excited to have another shot to just show everyone what we can do,” said senior Taylor Bolender. “The MAC Championship wasn’t our best performance and we want to prove to everyone we’re better than that. We want to improve our national ranking from this meet.”
Last year, Central Michigan placed third at the NCAA regionals behind UCLA and Michigan. Their overall team score was a 195.925, second-best regional score in program history.
CMU will have to place in the top two in order to move onto the national championship in Fort Worth, Texas on April 15.
“My team, and myself included, have seen Oklahoma compete and watched them,” Reighard said. “We’re not going to beat Oklahoma, it’s not within our sights. Nebraska (and) Arkansas on the other hand, I think those teams we can contend with. It really depends on what gymnastics CMU presents that day. If we present the team that I know we’re capable of, then I think we can contend for a second place berth.”
The only time CMU finished in the top two at regional is program history was in 2003, when CMU and Auburn tied for second place. The Chippewas lost the tiebreaker and couldn’t move onto the national championship.
For five seniors, this will be their last meet if they don’t qualify for the National Championships.
“I’m really excited going into this meet because, if it’s my last meet, then I want to leave everything on the table and give it my all because it’s the only thing I have left,” Bolender said.
During practice these next two weeks, CMU has been working on critiquing and polishing for regionals. Bolender said the team is working on form, sticking dismounts and fixing the little things.
Even if the team does not finish in the top two, individual Chippewas could advance to the National Championships if they finish first on an event.
“Judging is horrifically more difficult at this meet,” Reighard said. “They're separating everyone like what two teams are going to go, all-arounders and what specialists are going to go on. It’s a heightened judging criteria.”