Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Central Michigan gymnasts Katy Clements and Denelle Pedrick are headed to the NCAA Championships.
Clements won the balance beam and Pedrick captured the vault on Saturday at the NCAA Regional at the University of Arkansas' Barnhill Arena. Pedrick and Clements will compete in the NCAA Championships in two weeks in St. Louis.
"It's extra gratifying to know that all their hard work has really paid off," CMU coach Jerry Reighard said.
The Chippewas finished sixth in the six-team regional with a 195.675 score. Fourth-ranked Utah, the top seed in the regional, was first with a 197.150. Second-seeded Denver, which is ranked ninth, was second with 197.050.
Clements, a junior from Gainesville, Ga., scored a 9.900 on balance beam to share the top spot with three other gymnasts. Pedrick, a freshman from Wilcox, Saskatchewan, posted a career-high-tying 9.900 on vault. She too shared the top spot in her event with three gymnasts.
"Denelle, it was brand new vault, she's never competed it before," Reighard said. "It's a very rare vault in the NCAA. We flirted with it all season and finally decided after the MAC Championships that this was the vault we were going to do and she just nailed it. It was a fabulous vault.
"We're anxious now to go to the NCAA and compete against everyone in the nation. I think she'll fare very well with this vault. It compares with anybody in the nation."
Clements' performance on the balance beam was particularly remarkable, Reighard said, considering the pressure of the regional.
"We've known that Katy is very capable of being one of best balance beam workers in the nation," he said. "Unfortunately, at Central Michigan, we don't compete in front of massive crowds that they have this tournament. Teams like Utah and Alabama regularly compete with crowds of 10,000 to 15,000 people.
"You'd better be darned focused and Katy just did a wonderful job. She was smiling a couple times during her routine because she knew it was going so well."
Clements also finished among a group tied for sixth on vault with a career-best 9.850.
The Chippewas' Kirstin Stambaugh tied for seventh on beam with a 9.850, which tied her career high, while Macey Hilliker tied for eighth on floor (9.850), and Kasey Janowicz was 10th in the all-around with a 38.375.
Auburn and Arkansas tied for third at 196.600, while California (196.300) was fifth.
Reighard said he was not disappointed in his team's performance, but he knew going in it would take at least a season-best for his team to finish above its seed.
"We would have been third or fourth at many of the other regionals," he said. "But it really wasn't our best day. I think the crowds, the pressure of the meet, got to us. We were determined that that wasn't going to happen, but it did show up.
"It was a better-than-average day for us, but it wasn't our stellar day and we knew we needed a stellar day."
The Chippewas started on floor exercise, statistically their best of the four events that comprise a meet, but they posted a subpar 48.850.
"We didn't have any falls or anything, but that did take the wind out of our sails a little bit," he said.
The Chippewas scored a 49.000 on vault, a 48.700 on parallel bars, and a 49.125 on balance beam.
"I'm very satisfied," Reighard said. "I feel really good that Central Michigan will be represented at the national championships. It's nice to know the season isn't over.
"This is the NCAA Tournament. This is the first round. There were a lot of teams sitting home that we competed against all year long. We were there. And we are going to return a lot of these kids, and that experience and that hunger not only to get there again but to do better than they did this year, you really can't put a price tag on that.
"It's something the athletes will never forget."