March 23, 2005
DeKALB, IL - For the first time since 1998, all seven Mid-American Conference women's gymnastics teams are set to travel to DeKalb as Northern Illinois University hosts the 2005 Mid-American Conference Women's Gymnastics Championships Friday (Mar. 25). The one-night event is scheduled to start at 6:05 p.m. (CST) at NIU's Convocation Center.
Two-time defending league champion Central Michigan University---ranked No. 13 in the nation according to the latest GymInfo rankings---enters the weekend as the prohibitive favorite after compiling its third consecutive undefeated MAC season. The Chippewas---who also topped the league's preseason coaches poll as favorites to win the MAC's regular-season title---finished the 2005 campaign 12-5 overall with a 6-0 league slate. CMU boasts defending league titlist Sara Burtinsky who took home the top spot in the all-around (39.550), balance beam (9.975), and uneven parallel bars (9.925) last year.
Despite all of the fanfare, however, things got a bit more interesting Sunday (Mar. 20) when another of CMU's top gymnasts---two-time MAC all-around champion (2002, 2003) Kara Reighard---suffered a season-ending knee injury during CMU's 196.725-193.200 victory over Northern Illinois.
That one change in the Chippewa lineup might be just enough to open the door for Kent State University, which tied CMU as the favorite to take home the postseason crown in the league's preseason poll. The Golden Flashes finished the regular season with a 10-7 record in dual meets, but posted a 4-2 mark against MAC competition. KSU is led by two-time MAC Gymnast of the Week Carrie Mayle.
CMU and Kent State have combined to win 18 of 24 MAC crowns since competition started in 1981 and 16 of the last 17 overall. Eastern Michigan University (9-8, 3-3 MAC), Northern Illinois University (7-10, 3-3 MAC), and Bowling Green State University (7-10, 3-3 MAC) all finished with the same MAC record in the final tally, and could be poised to make a run at a league title while building on some late-season success. Western Michigan University (5-14, 1-5 MAC) and Ball State University (3-17, 1-5 MAC)---which is the only school other than Central Michigan and Kent State to win a MAC gymnastics championship over the past 17 years after taking home the 2002 title---round out the seven-team field. Rotation order for all seven teams will be decided later this week.