Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – An underdog?
Jerry Reighard and his gymnasts don’t see it that way. Reighard, the veteran Central Michigan coach, puts his team against some of the nation’s best on Saturday when the Chippewas partake in the NCAA Regional at Arkansas.
The field includes fourth-ranked Utah, the Pac-12 champion, and ninth-ranked Denver, the Big 12 runner-up. Those are the top two seeds, respectively.
“I feel like no one really deserves anything in life,” said Reighard, who has his Chippewas in the regional for the 14th time in the last 19 years. “You have to earn it. We’ve earned the distinction of being chosen to be in the NCAA Tournament.
“This is a very different kind of gymnastics meet. There’s no tomorrow if you don’t do it today.”
The Chippewas finished third with a 196.100 score two weeks ago in the Mid-American Conference Championships. That finish was disappointing, particularly in light of the fact that CMU had posted a season-high 196.575 a week earlier in its regular-season finale, a dual victory over MAC foe Northern Illinois.
“We’ve made progress in the last two weeks,” Reighard said. “The team looks much better, much more secure in themselves.”
CMU, which is ranked 28th, is seeded sixth in the six-team regional. The field includes No. 16 California, No. 21 Auburn and the host Razorbacks, who are ranked 27th. The top two teams advance to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis.
“I just have this feeling that perhaps there is more pressure on every one of those teams than there is on us,” Reighard said. “I think my team is feeling very confident. We’ve had numerous great practice meets so I think we’re going into the meet ready to go, not totally relaxed, but not nervous. Often times you compete better in those circumstances.”