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Christine MacDonald at halfway point of season: 'We're definitely right where we need to be'

CMU freshman Savana Kotas celebrates with her teammates on the balance beam on Feb. 16 against Kent State in McGuirk Arena.

With naming a new head coach, graduating five seniors and bringing in seven freshmen, Central Michigan’s gymnastics team has taken on some big changes this season. 

In 2019, the Chippewas had a perfect record in the Mid-American Conference, won the regular-season conference title and took second in the MAC Championships as Northern Illinois won it. This year, the Chippewas were predicted by conference coaches to win the MAC regular-season championship and postseason title. 

Despite dropping their four most recent meets, CMU has secured wins over Michigan State, Illinois State and Eastern Michigan. The Chippewas' latest meet was a 195.175-195.075 loss to Kent State after the Golden Flashes submitted an inquiry following the final rotation

Christine MacDonald, after serving as an assistant and associate head coach for 25 years, was named to lead the Chippewas on May 16, 2019, to replace former long-time coach Jerry Reighard. 

MacDonald’s leadership and coaching have been highly praised by members of her team, such as senior captain Denelle Pedrick and sophomore Morgan Tong. 

“She wholeheartedly believes in us, as we do in her,” Pedrick said. “The team has improved so much with her. It is a positive environment in the gym, everyone is happy to be there, they’re willing to put the work in.” 

Tong added the feeling around the program has changed when MacDonald took over as head coach, too. 

“I feel like Christine has made the gym a home, and we’re all each other’s family,” Tong said. “She’s really emphasized the details, and that pays off on our routines. It’s really good having her as a head coach.” 

Throughout the season, the Chippewas have been changing around lineups and giving different gymnasts opportunities, which MacDonald says has been working great for them. 

“The competition in the gym is great, it’s given opportunities for other people to step in,” MacDonald said. “Although it is a young lineup, they are all prepared. No matter which six are in, they all have each other’s backs.” 

Aside from the roster and coaching changes, the team has faced roadblocks like illness and injury, with constant traveling being difficult as well. Last season, CMU had five home meets. This season, the team only has three. 

Nonetheless, the Chippewas have their goals of becoming MAC champions in mind and MacDonald has belief her team will be there when the season wraps up. 

“Looking down the line towards MAC Championships, we are definitely right where we need to be,” MacDonald said. “Overall, this team continues to show resilience. They continue to show their passion for each other, for the sport and the belief in that we are going to take it one routine at a time.”