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Gymnastics opens NCAA regionals with dual against Illinois


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All-around gymnast Danelle Pedrick performs during floor exercise during Central Michigan University gymnastics' meet against Northern Illinois University March 15 in McGuirk Arena.  

The Central Michigan gymnastics team will be under the most pressure it has been all season in the opening round of NCAA regionals. 

The Chippewas take on Illinois in a dual meet at 3 p.m. on April 4 in the Ann Arbor regional. The winner of that dual will advance to the quad contest the next day against No. 2 UCLA, No. 15 Nebraska and West Virginia. 

The loser of the dual between the Fighting Illini and the Chippewas will be eliminated from the competition. 

Last time out, CMU finished second in the Mid-American Conference Championships to Northern Illinois. However, the Chippewas are the only school from the MAC in the national tournament of 36 teams. 

Illinois also finished second, only behind Michigan in the Big Ten Conference Championships by amassing a season-high 196.650 score. 

These teams met in a quad meet to open the season Jan. 6 in Mount Pleasant. The other two teams in the meet were Arizona and Division II Bridgeport. CMU won the meet with a 194.875, edging Arizona by a tenth of a point and the Fighting Illini finished third with a score of 192.850. 

The two teams are currently No. 29 and No. 30, according to roadtonationals.com, with Illinois just ahead of Central Michigan. The Fighting Illini score an average of 195.160, whereas the Chippewas average 195.096 per meet.

Associate head coach Christine MacDonald said that maintaining focus on the moment that the team has in front of them. 

"Just staying focused on our gymnastics," MacDonald said. "Continue to focus on the details, that's what this time of the year is all about, making sure all of the little things are fine-tuned and just hitting as a team this weekend." 

Junior Denelle Pedrick and senior Gianna Plaksa will still compete as individuals in the NCAA regionals, even if the Chippewas fail to advance past Illinois. 

Pedrick is set to compete in the all-around competition, so she will participate in each rotation. Plaksa will compete on the uneven parallel bars in the individual competition. That competition will take place in the Friday night session.

Pedrick, the MAC Gymnast of the Year, has not placed her focus on individual accolades or thinking of her own personal gain. She instead is most interested in winning as a team.

"I definitely do it more for my team than for myself," Pedrick said. "That's definitely the mindset that has helped me be more successful. Going into every routine, I take a deep breath and I think, 'do it for them.' It has helped me grow confidence-wise." 

The dual meet between the Chippewas and the Fighting Illini will begin at 3 p.m. on April 4 in the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.

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