​The Beam Team: Six gymnasts bear physical toll of toeing the four-inch beam for CMU

The balance beam is one of the most challenging events in gymnastics.

The challenge of the beam is illustrated through the scoring. Only nine teams in the country average a score of 49 out of 50 or higher on the balance beam. The other three women's gymnastics events all have more teams averaging at least a 49.

A beam routine requires a mixture of dance elements, acrobatic skills, leaps and poses and keeping balance on the four-inch beam for the minute-and-a-half routine.

“We’re doing skills now on the four-inch wide balance beam that a while ago was only done on floor,” said Head Coach Jerry Reighard. “It’s the tumbling and jumping which takes a lot of courage. To be a good beam worker, you have to be really tough.”

The Central Michigan gymnastics beam team consists of seniors Jordan Charrette and Karlee Teet, juniors Caroline Fitzpatrick and Kirstin Stambaugh, sophomore Katy Clements and freshman Kasey Janowicz.

The beam team is ranked 35th in the country, tied with Western Michigan, with a 48.513 average score. Oklahoma is ranked first with an average score of 49.321 and their highest score of 49.425.

The group had a slow start to the season, ending their opening matchup at Temple with a 47.175, the lowest for any CMU event in the past three seasons. The team's score has improved throughout the season, with a season-high of 48.95 in two of its last three meets.

“They’re a really talented group,” Reighard said. “But it took them a while to mesh. I think we’re at that point now where they trust each other. They’re all confident in their own way.”

Gymnasts bear a large physical toll, especially on the balance beam, including scraping their skin alongside the bar and getting bruises. Reighard said it’s part of the learning process and shows the courage of his beam workers.

“It comes down to a mental game,” Fitzpatrick said. “You can practice as much as you want. But when it comes down to the meet, it’s you and your mind and keeping your head in the right spot.”

Fitzpatrick, also referred to by Coach Reighard as the “rock” of the beam team, has executed one of the highest scores for CMU this season with a 9.825 against Northern Illinois.

“Through practice, I’ve shown the team and the coaches that I can hit those high routines and be accountable,” she said. “That’s definitely a good feeling to have that your team and coaches trust you. It gives you a sense of calmness and confidence on the beam.”

Clements starts the beam team off. Reighard refers to her as the “anchor” of the event, even though she goes first in their lineup. Typically, the anchor of the group goes last, knowing what they need to accomplish. Clements has remained a consistent scorer for the Chippewas, scoring a 9.825 in each of the past four meets.

“I really like the opportunity to get up there and set the pace for everyone else,” Clements said. “It’s a good feeling, I’m not as nervous going first, and halfway through my beam routine, I realize I’m competing and that’s a good feeling."

As for every event, the Chippewas’ goal this season is to score a 49 or above overall team score and become the leading Mid-American Conference beam team. This year, they’re aiming to beat the school balance beam record of 49.475.

“This group is capable of getting that CMU record,” Fitzpatrick said. “That’s definitely a goal for us.”

The CMU gymnastics team (7-1, 2-0 MAC) travels to Chicago for the IGI Chicago Style Meet at Navy Pier this Friday.