Make a statement: Sophomore gymnast tweaks routine in preparation for NCAA semifinals
As Denelle Pedrick prepared for the NCAA semifinal round, something in the gym was different.
Her coaches were in attendance and the gym was normal, except for one thing — she was the only gymnast training.
The Central Michigan sophomore gymnast was the only athlete to qualify for the NCAA semifinal round. Now, it's up to her to keep the CMU gymnastics season alive.
She will represent her team in the 2018 NCAA semifinals at 1 p.m. April 20 in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Saskatchewan, Canada native scored a 9.9 in her floor routine at this year’s NCAA South Central Regional Championship on April 7 — earning a trip to the semifinals. The score was her season-best.
CMU finished last as a team in the regional round of the NCAA Gymnastics Championship.
Pedrick is looking forward to returning to St. Louis and compete against some of the best gymnasts in the nation.
“It’s definitely a lot better to have the experience (from nationals) under my belt so I know what to expect from it this year," Pedrick said. "Knowing what it will feel like, look like and sound like are certainly going to help me when I’m there.”
Pedrick will rotate alongside No. 1 Oklahoma in the semifinals.
“I’ve seen (the Sooners) compete and it’s inspirational to watch them because it leads me to what I want to be in the future,” she said. “Their gymnastics is precise and calculated. They master every landing and detail down to their pointed toes."
Pedrick is adding a few upgrades to her usual routine for her next performance, she said.
"It’s to give my routine a wow-factor, and makes it more impressive on a national stage," she said. “I’m confident it’ll come together at the right time and make a statement.”
Tweaking a routine close to competition is risky, but it's worth a shot, said head coach Jerry Reighard.
“Implementing a new floor routine with limited amount of time to practice involves a little bit of risk,” he said. “We’re going into this meet trying to win it all, so you have to match what will be brought by other teams.”
Pedrick credits her success to Reighard's practice format and CMU facilities.
There are multiple foam pits in the gym, which are utilized by CMU gymnastics to allow for soft landings. This feature attracted Pedrick to CMU, she said, adding she has the opportunity to minimize the amount of impact and stress on her body.
“A lot of college gyms don’t have foam pits, or the abilities this gym has to offer,” she said. “Most gymnasts aren’t as fortunate and the athletes have to go through a lot more impacts during practice which can cause more injuries to hurt a team's season.”
Reighard thinks the foam pits allow student-athletes to stay strong deep into the season.
“My philosophy has always been if you’re not healthy by the end of the season, then you’re not going to be competing,” he said. “With the facilities we now have, we can reduce the pain gymnasts are in by the end of the season, and let younger gymnasts experiment and know we have the resources to train for better and better routines."
Reighard said Pedrick has a good chance at advancing, even without the rest of her team.
“We know that being in an environment like that without your team and the support they give you — it becomes a different type of competitive situation,” he said. “She’ll perform her floor exercise after Oklahoma takes to the floor, but we know she’ll be ready to contend and be at her best come showtime.”