Central Michigan gymnastics’ season ends with fifth place finish at NCAA Regional
Chippewas top rival Kent State, fall nearly two points short of advancing
While the Oklahoma men’s basketball team was getting blown out by Villanova in the Final Four, another Oklahoma team dominated on the way to a NCAA National Championship berth.
The top-ranked Sooners finished first in the Iowa City NCAA Gymnastics Regional with a 197.575. Oklahoma earns a trip to the April 15-16 championships in Fort Worth, Texas along with No. 12 and second-place-finishing Nebraska, which scored a 196.550.
The top two teams in each of the six regionals advance.
Central Michigan finished fifth out of the sixth teams with a 194.675, topping only rival Kent State.
“We talked about competing with our hearts today and I definitely saw that in everyone today, just looking in everyone’s eyeballs and seeing all the hard work come out," said senior Karlee Teet. "Even if it wasn’t what we wanted, we fought to the end and we fought to the next tenth."
No Chippewas will go to the championships as individuals, something that hasn’t been done by a CMU gymnast since 2014. The gymnast with the highest score on each event advances, regardless of their team’s performance.
Senior Taylor Bolender was the closest to winning an event for the Chippewas, finishing ninth and scoring a 9.850 on the balance beam. Five gymnasts — including three from Oklahoma — tied for first with a 9.900 on the event.
Bolender said it was an emotional day, as she also took a fall on her best event on floor in CMU's final routine of the day.
“You really don’t know what to say as a coach," said Head Coach Jerry Reighard. "There was a great possibility there. But her opening tumbling pass was the best I’ve ever seen it. Something didn’t quite click and it was a costly mistake.”
Reighard said Bolender's 9.650 on the vault was one of the "highlights of her career." Bolender had never performed the specific vault she did Saturday in competition in her career.
"That was my main goal for senior year, to do that vault," Bolender said. "It was really cool to do that at the last meet of the year."
Oklahoma’s Chayse Capps finished first in three of the four events and finished third on the floor exercise. She won the all-around with a 39.550.
Freshman all-arounder Kasey Janowicz did not participate in Saturday’s regional due to injury. Reighard said nothing was reaggravated, but did not want to risk her health.
The Bay City native competed on all four events in all of the first nine meets before sitting during the March 4 meet against Bowling Green. She competed on bars and beam in the following week and was on all four events for the March 19 Mid-American Conference Championships.
"We just felt it was not in her best interest to compete at this meet," Reighard said. "Nothing permanent, but being a freshman, it was her best interest to take her out of the lineup, as well as some other people.
Janowicz scored a 9.875 or higher at least once on all events in 2016. She led CMU on vault, averaging a 9.788.
Reighard said there were others who could not compete Saturday because of injury, adding that they had to have replacements on 11 routines.
Falling behind early
The Chippewas struggled at the start of the regional, scoring a 48.375 on the vault. The vault has been tough for CMU all season, as the team averaged a 48.594 in the regular season — the lowest of all four events and well below the team’s 49 goal.
Teet was the only Chippewa to score above 9.7 on the event, finishing ninth with a 9.800.
CMU followed up with a 48.875 on the uneven bars. Sophomore Jodie Plescow tied a career high with a team-best 9.825. MAC individual champions sophomore Bryttany Kaplan and senior Megan Lamphere each scored a 9.800.
Midway through the meet, the Chippewas sat in fifth place ahead of Iowa with a 97.250, sitting 1.150 points behind second-place Nebraska.
CMU’s best event of the day was on the balance beam, where the Chippewas scored a 48.900. Conversely, none of the six Chippewas scored above a 9.75 on the floor routine, as CMU finished with a 48.525 on the event.
“All in all, I knew we weren’t going to be a team that was going to advance on," Reighard said. "I just wanted to send — especially our seniors — out with a good meet and I felt that they did that. We had freshman in on every event."
This was the eighth consecutive regionals appearance for CMU — including a pair of third place finishes in 2014 and 2015 with scores above 195.5.
Beating Kent State
After falling to rival Kent State during the regular season, the Chippewas have topped the Golden Flashes in back-to-back meets.
“A lot of things considered, the team really performed very well," Reighard said. "We improved our standing, so I think that says a lot for the character of our team we were able to field today.”
Kent State finished fifth in the MAC Championships, one spot behind the Chippewas.
“It’s always nice not to be last place and beating Kent is always one of our main goals," Bolender said. "Being able to beat them again was a highlight.”
Reighard said he thought his team had a chance to beat Iowa and finish fourth until the final few routines, when the host Hawkeyes pulled away.
"We really knew we could take care of business with Kent and it was very satisfying to do that," he said. "At one point, I thought we were going to overtake Iowa, but they rocked out on bars and really made a difference there."
Results (top two teams advance)
No. 1 Oklahoma: 197.575
No. 12 Nebraska: 196.550
No. 13 Arkansas: 195.500
No. 19 Iowa: 195.450
No. 35 Central Michigan: 194.675
No. 30 Kent State: 194.525