CMU gymnastics team goes on road to face BYU, Denver

The CMU gymnastics team will have a share of physical challenges Saturday at the Hamilton Gymnasium in Denver.

The team will compete against No. 14 Denver, Brigham Young and higher elevation in Denver the team is not accustomed to.

With the city 5,183 feet above sea level, the Chippewas put added emphasis on conditioning during this week’s practices. Focus was centered on the floor exercises, which can be especially draining when performed as the last event, coach Jerry Reighard said.

Reighard altered his practice schedule slightly, adding more conditioning in order to prepare the team.

“Everything we can do to make them prepared, we have done, but I assure it is still not enough once you get into that mountain air,” he said.

Some of the changes in practice have been interlacing the floor routines with work on the exercise bikes, as well as an increased load of cardiovascular work.

Because of decreased oxygen in higher elevations, it takes an athlete about 7-10 days to become fully accustomed to performing in those conditions. However, Junior Cheryl Conlin said she is prepared for whatever type of challenge the altitude may bring.

“It’s the same, and we just need to focus on the little things,” she said. The mental aspect is another area Reighard has seen improvement during practice — three gymnasts fell on the balance beam in the team’s win over Utah State last weekend. The mental toughness of the squad must be present if it hopes to beat two quality teams, Reighard said.

“Can they mentally overcome it, when their minds are in that fatigued state?” he said.

Many gymnasts are fighting for a spot on the 10-person travel roster. Following Conlin’s all-around victory in the meet against Utah State (38.45), Reighard said he is pleased with her efforts and expects her to make another strong showing this weekend.

“(Cheryl) has been a real go-getter for us,” he said, “I was pleased with her attitude to make it into the line-up and not be bumped out.”

The competition

The Denver Pioneers enter Saturday’s meet coming off wins against No. 22 Minnesota, Penn State and Air Force.

Top performers this season for the Pioneers include sophomore Brianna Artemev, who won her first all-around title, posting a score of 39.150. Senior Kelley Hennigan placed third overall with a score of 38.425.

The second challenge in the meet will be outperforming the sophomore-led BYU Cougars, whose roster includes seven gymnasts in their second year of competing. All-arounders Kara Mun and Holland Davis scored consistently in the high 9.7’s on the vault in 2009.

BYU opened its season last week losing against Southern Utah. However, the team posted a 193.050, higher than each of CMU’s totals thus far this year.

Despite the prowess of both programs, Reighard said his team needs to focus on its effort and not get caught up in the national rankings.

“The goal is to not be overshadowed or afraid of those teams,” he said. “Just go out and do CMU gymnastics.”