Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – The Central Michigan gymnastics team is headed to Arkansas for the NCAA Regional.
The Arkansas Regional, in Fayetteville and hosted by Arkansas, is one of six six-team regionals to be contested across the country on Saturday, April 1. The bids were released on Monday afternoon.
The top two teams in each regional advance to the April 14 NCAA Championships in St. Louis.
“I think it’s a real honor to be going,” said CMU coach Jerry Reighard, who has the Chippewas in the regional for the 14th time in the last 19 years. “It’s not something we take for granted. We‘ve done it for a lot of years, but each year you’ve got to earn that right. We’ve never competed at Arkansas. From that standpoint I think it’ll be a really great trip.”
The Chippewas, who are ranked 28th, are the sixth seed at Arkansas. No. 4-ranked Utah is the top seed, followed by No. 9 Denver, No. 16 California, No. 21 Auburn and the host Razorbacks, who are ranked 27th.
The rankings are based on Regional Qualifying Score, an average of a given team’s total scores throughout the season. The Chippewas averaged 195.765. CMU’s season-high 196.575 is better than those posted by both Arkansas (196.375) and Auburn (196.550).
Utah, a national power and the Pac 12 champion, is the favorite. Denver finished second in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma, the No. 1-ranked team in the country. California placed sixth in the Pac 12 Championships; while Auburn was sixth and Arkansas finished eighth in the SEC Championships.
“Utah has probably never lost a regional meet,” Reighard said. “They’re very experienced and have been at the nationals several times.”
To contend for an NCAA berth, the Chippewas will almost certainly have to better their season-best score and crack the 197 barrier. They are capable, Reighard said, but they must come out of the chute better than they did in last weekend’s MAC Championships at Bowling Green. They started on parallel bars, posting a subpar 48.675.
“We put ourselves in a tough position at the MAC Championships on the first rotation,” Reighard said. “That’s something that we’ve already started to remedy. I think our team’s a 197 team. If we’re in the mindset that we need to be in we can compete with all the teams at the regional.”
CMU is one of three MAC teams to have received a regional berth. Eastern Michigan, which won the MAC Championships and captured the regular-season league crown, is headed to the Illinois Regional. Kent State will compete in the West Virginia Regional.