Story Courtesy of CMU Media Relations
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The No. 24 Central Michigan gymnastics team put together a strong push for a spot at NCAA Nationals late in the NCAA Central Regional Championships, but finished fourth with a solid score of 195.125.
No. 1 Alabama won the meet with a 197.400 and No. 12 Nebraska took the second spot in nationals with a 195.875. No. 13 Illinois rallied late to take third with a 195.425. Host No. 24 Kentucky took fifth with a 194.975 and Michigan State was sixth with a 194.475.
"It was a bittersweet ending," head coach Jerry Reighard said. "I am very proud of how everyone competed. We were in the hunt all the way to the last event. To battle and beat an SEC and Big Ten school speaks a lot about their character and how we competed today."
The Chippewas began the evening on beam and posted a 48.650. Four gymnasts scored 9.700 or higher and Britney Taylor led the way with her 9.800, which tied for fourth on the apparatus. Andrea de la Garza posted a 9.750, Katie Simon scored a 9.725 and Jessica Suder tallied a 9.700. Nebraska took the early lead with a 49.150 on floor and Illinois scored a 49.025 on vault. Michigan State started on bars and posted a 48.075.
"I am proud of how Britney competed today," Reighard said. "She found herself on the medal stand in the beam and really had a solid day on vault and floor as well."
After a bye, Central resumed competition on floor and posted a 48.950 as every gymnast scored 9.725 or better, including four scores of 9.800 or higher. Cheryl Conlin led all CMU performers with a 9.825 while Simon, de la Garza and Kristin Teubner each scored 9.800 while Taylor and Emily LaFontaine both tallied a 9.725 to give the Chippewas a score of 97.600, tied with Illinois for third place, through three rotations.
The Maroon and Gold moved immediately to vault, where they scored a 49.025. Every Chippewa gymnast scored 9.750 or higher and three eclipsed the 9.800 mark. Taylor's 9.850 led Central and she was followed by Simon's 9.825, Teubner's 9.800, Darrian Tissenbaum's and Kari Dieffenderfer's 9.775 and de la Garza's 9.750. The effort moved the Chippewas to sole possession of third with a score of 146.625.
After another bye, the Chippewas made their last stand on bars. Three gymnasts went 9.725 or higher, led by Kari Dieffenderfer's career-best 9.875 was tied for fourth place. Simon posted a 9.775 and LaFontaine scored a 9.725. Illinois finished on floor and scored a 49.225 to overtake Central for third place.
"Kari has been a tremendous freshman," Reighard said. "She did everything that was asked and it really culminated today with a career best at regionals."
Simon's all-around score of 39.125 placed her fifth in her final competition, only .050 shy of qualifying for nationals individually.
"Katie has been a rock for us her entire career," Reighard said. "She has struggled since the MAC Championships, but today she found herself in the hunt and competed well for us. She's going to be one of the markers for CMU gymnastics."
CMU finishes the 2010 season 20-5. The Chippewas claimed their 11th Mid-American Conference title in school history and achieved their first midseason top 25 national ranking since 2005.