CMU returns to McGuirk in style with victory over Western, second place finish

Junior Hannah DeMers celebrates after her teammate Sierra DeMarinis finishes her floor exercise routine, Friday Feb. 11, in McGuirk Arena.

Central Michigan gymnastics returned to McGuirk Arena for the first time in over a month on Friday evening as they hosted Western Michigan and Michigan State for an in-state duel. CMU managed to top Western’s team score of 195.400, but fell short of State’s 196.500. 

The Chippewas posted another season-high overall score of 196.475 and earned a second-place finish, securing a head-to-head victory against conference rival Western. 

The Chippewas got off to a solid start as they opened up competition on the vault rotation with a team score of 49.025 - good for their season high. Sophomore Katie Kowalski had a big hand in the impressive team rotation effort on her way to tying her career-high mark in vault with a 9.900 and earning a first-place finish in the event.

Also finishing in the top-five for the Chippewas were junior Hannah DeMers (tied for third with a 9.850) and senior Sierra DeMarinis (tied for fifth with a 9.800)

DeMarinis’ night was far from over following the vault rotation, however. Perhaps inspired by Kowalski’s career-high effort, DeMarinis put together a 9.950 performance to close out the meet on the floor exercise, tying a personal-best mark she picked up during the 2021 season. 

This was the first time two Chippewas recorded scores of 9.9+ in the same meet on the season. DeMarinis was the anchor of a floor lineup that yielded an individual event team score of 49.300 for the rotation - CMU’s top team score for any event this season.

Freshman Lia Kmieciak made her NCAA Gymnastics debut on the uneven parallel bars, and got off to a phenomenal start to her CMU career with a 9.850. Not only that, but she was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd as McGuirk erupted following her dismount and stuck landing. 

When it was all said and done, she capped off her special night with a second-place finish in the event. Joining her in the top-five were a host of other Chippewas; junior Audriana Hammond, sophomore Adriana Bustelo, and DeMers all shared third-place honors with score of 9.825 each, while junior Brenna Hauser took fifth (along with Michigan State’s Gabrielle Stephen) thanks to  a 9.775-point performance.

Of course, these impressive individual and team performances are made possible not only by the gymnasts’ hard work and drive, but the leadership of the coaching staff as well. In her third season as the head coach, Christine MacDonald has already seen plenty of success within the Mid-American Conference, coaching two individual event MAC titles last season (Morgan Tong on the beam and  DeMers on the uneven parallel bars).

 Additionally, MacDonald has been in Central’s decorated program since her years as a student athlete, and has been a part of 15 MAC championships. Yet, she is aware that the team is never a finished product, and there are always areas of improvement.

“We can mainly improve on the half-tenths, you know all the little tenths that are in those routines, and you know, we’re still working through lineups,” MacDonald said. “We had a first time competitor today with Lia Kmieciak on bars, she’s a freshman, it was her first meet and she just did a standout job and I think it really put a different tone on our bar lineup and that’s something that we’re gonna continue, we still have some routines that we haven't put in lineup yet so I feel like the focus is going to be on those half tenths.”

Look for CMU to continue riding their impressive performances as the Chippewas head to DeKalb next Sunday, Feb. 20th to take on Northern Illinois in a quad meet. CMU will also face Western Michigan again for the second consecutive meet, along with Iowa State. The meet is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. ET.