Gymnasts shine in third annual Excite Night

Team interacts with students, community in preseason event


Connecticut Junior Caroline Fitzpatrick performs a bar routine during CMU gymnastic's Excite Night on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015 at McGuirk Arena. The event gave fans an opportunity to get a better understanding of the sport, watch the team perform and get autographs.

Central Michigan gymnastics had its first chance to perform in front of an audience this season at Friday's Excite Night at McGuirk Arena. The event gave fans an opportunity to get a better understanding of the sport while having a bit of fun in the process.

Three years ago, Excite Night was an intersquad meet with little to no fan participation, something Head Coach Jerry Reighard wanted to see change.

“It was kind of boring," Reighard said. “It was really good for the team because they all got to do their routines, but I don’t think the crowd got into it."

Reighard was consistently hearing from fans that they enjoyed watching the gymnasts, but could never really understand why the athletes received the scores they were given.

“I just said well, we’ll try this, and I think every year it gets a little better," Reighard said.

The evening began with the introduction of all 20 members followed by a small warmup period. Reighard then introduced the first discipline, the vault. 

He explained the mechanics of the event — including how the gymnasts reach 16 mph before hitting the table and turning their bodies around. He also explained how the event is scored and what the judges are looking for.

Reighard, who's coached the CMU gymnastics team for 30 years, broke down the specifics as a few gymnasts went through their routines. The same was also done for the rest of the events on the uneven bars, balance beam and floor.

“I think just the thrill of showing of how hard we’ve been working was really fun,” said junior Rachel Carr. “It was just a lot of fun to go out there and give it your all.”

Not only was the event a good opportunity for the team to compete in front of a crowd, but the free event was also positive for the community. Fans were able to answer CMU gymnastics trivia to win shirts and children aspiring to be gymnasts were able to dance and tumble with the team on the floor.

“That’s what’s really important to us,” Reighard said. “This is really our fan base. A lot of these kids are in what we call our gymnastics school and it means the world to them to get an autograph and come down on the floor."

The Chippewas host their first meet of the season Jan. 3 against the Temple Owls.