Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
ST. LOUIS – Two Central Michigan gymnasts, Denelle Pedrick and Katy Clements, will step onto the biggest of collegiate stages on Friday when they partake in the NCAA Championships at Chaifetz Arena on the campus of Saint Louis University.
Both earned their way to St. Louis by winning events two weeks ago at the regional at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Clements captured the balance beam, while Pedrick won the vault. Both scored 9.900 in their respective events. Pedrick’s score on the vault tied her career high.
Clements is a junior from Gainesville, Ga.; Pedrick a freshman from Wilcox, Saskatchewan.
“Great experience for those two individuals,” CMU coach Jerry Reighard said. “Both are going to be back next year, and I think that speaks volumes to the rest of our athletes when they speak up and say, ‘This is what you have to do as far as the national championships.’
“I couldn’t be more proud of these two and we’re just excited to represent Central Michigan.”
Pedrick and Clements are two of 20 individuals, representing 12 universities, who have qualified for the NCAA. They are the lone student-athletes from Mid-American Conference schools to have qualified. Just five athletes, including the CMU duo, are from a school outside of the Power Five conferences.
“We’ve overcome some obstacles,” Reighard said. “And that shows everyone that we can do that.
“To win a regional championship it puts them, I think, in a group of individuals that is very distinctive. Having done that, they can lay claim to the fact that they are the top six of the nation. Our aspiration is that they both do well enough to be All-American.”
Pedrick and Clements are the first Chippewas to qualify for the nationals since 2014, when Taylor Noonan, Halle Moraw and Emily Heinz qualified on the balance beam.
Before that, it had been a decade -- Sara Burtinsky in 2004 -- since a Chippewa had qualified for the nationals.
“They’re both inspiring in different ways,” Reighard said. “Katy wasn’t that sensational high school, age-group gymnast. Just pure hard work, summer training, taking it seriously is what’s gotten her here. Denelle has really exploited her talent since she’s been at CMU. We’ve seen something in her that we’ve been able to develop.”