Gymnastics sets sight on NCAA Regional Championship in Tuscaloosa

Following the team’s 16th Mid-American Conference Championship win on March 24, Central Michigan gymnastics qualified for the 2018 NCAA South Central Regional Championship.

This is the 14th time in team history that CMU will compete in a NCAA Regional Championship under head coach Jerry Reighard.

CMU will matchup alongside host No. 6 Alabama, No. 7 Michigan, No. 18 Georgia, No. 22 Missouri, and No. 23 Illinois in the Coleman Coliseum.

The competition from all five other teams will be far from weak, Reighard said.

“You don’t get into the tournament if you haven’t been strong all season,” he said. “We’re expecting really solid, consistent routines from the athletes of each team.”

CMU finished 36th in the NCAA rankings this season – the last spot to qualify as a team for a regional championship – with a Regional Qualifying Score of 195.75.

With their RQS berthing the Chippewas into the tournament, each performance from CMU gymnasts will be the only focus of the meet.

“We’ve been working towards this all season, and we strive to do our best in competition each and every time,” said senior Katy Clements. “We know what hitting a 9.85, or a 9.9 on our routines feels like, so the expectation is when you put your hands up to signal you’re ready, you go out there and get that feeling. That’s our only worry.”

Winning the 2018 MAC Regular Season and Conference title has “lit a fire” for CMU and it’ll aid in the team’s confidence to go out and perform said Clements.

“When we went 197 in the conference championship, it was so cool because reaching that score had been a goal all year,” Clements said about the third-highest score in program history. “For us to finally put a meet together like we wanted, we realized it wasn’t a fluke, it was real. It’s what we see in practice and hopefully it'll be what we see in the meet.”

In his 33rd season as head coach, Reighard’s learned that consistency is the key to success, no matter the stage of competition.

“We have a rhythm on this team and we’re not looking to disrupt that,” Reighard said. “We’ll still dedicate the few days prior to being team activities like practicing for the environment we’ll be competing in, conditioning, lifting, etc.

“On the last day before any meet, we spend the day working on potential problem areas. It’s like tweaking our routines to be the best they can, but it’s important to keep what we call ‘fresh legs’ and not do anything strenuous.”

Competition begins at 4 p.m. April 7 in Coleman Coliseum. ESPN will be broadcasting the event here.