Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Every now and then, a coach has one of those recruiting classes, the kind that leaves an indelible mark, the kind against which all others will be judged.
Central Michigan gymnastics coach Jerry Reighard may have just such a class on his hands for 2015. Because next spring, he will say good-bye to one of the best classes he has had in his long and storied tenure at CMU.
"This class is very critical, this is going to be replacing our six seniors that continually have won championships," said Reighard, who guided the Chippewas to a record fifth consecutive Mid-American Conference championship last season. "Top to bottom I think that this class is going to be the future of CMU gymnastics.
"I tell my team every time we sign a class, `My job is to find athletes that are better than you,' and I did. And now they're either going to have to rise to the occasion or be replaced. And typically that pushes our athletes or current athletes to the next level because they don't want to be replaced. And that's how you stay at the level we're at."
The class comprises Kasey Janowicz of Bay City, Mich.; Abbie Zoeller of Georgia; Skylar Memmel of Milwaukee, Wis.; Kailey Miller of Lexington, Ky.; and Gianna Plaksa of Pennsylvania.
"We've been pretty methodical in selecting this class, we've been all over the nation looking at kids," Reighard said. "We think it's going to be a really dandy year for us.
"You never know how freshman are going to respond to Division I athletics, but these five have had real success on the national scene so we are very confident that this is going to be a very good class."
Janowicz is a member of the U.S. National Team who placed fourth in the Level 10 Nationals in the all-around last season. Reighard said Janowicz has the potential to, one day, be mentioned with some of the all-time greats to have come through his program.
"We have real faith that she's going to stand up to the test," he said.
Zoeller, Reighard said, became the first member of the class when she verbally committed some 18 months ago.
"I saw her video and absolutely fell in love with her gymnastics," he said. "She was good, she was everything I wanted in an athlete. She has a personality to match that, she has sort of an elite style to her."
Memmel, the sister of 2008 Olympian Chellsie Memmel, is a standout in balance beam and floor whose ties to the sport run very deep. She was coached by her parents, Jeanelle and Andy Memmel, and grew up training in their gym, M&M Gymnastics and Dance.
"Balance beam is her love and you have to have a kid in that event, especially, that will stand out, and she will definitely stand out for us," Reighard said. "She comes from a great gymnastics family, and she knows what hardcore gymnastics is."
Reighard called Miller and Plaksa diamonds in the rough, both of whom possess outstanding skill and have the potential to, one day, become elite gymnasts.
Plaksa is a Junior Olympic national qualifier with a major upside, he said.
"Gianna has very good bars, probably her best event," he said. "We've watched her for a long time and we've seen real strides. That's the type of kid we get, that's in the learning curve that we get excited about, because we get to look at where they're going to be two, three, four years out, not where they're at currently."
Miller is a Junior Olympic qualifier "so she knows what it's all about," Reighard said. "We just saw great potential in her and are really banking on the fact that she's going to continue on the learning curve and be a typical senior gymnast.
"I think her bars are really what caught our eye. As a recruiter the two events that we have to look for are bars and vault."
|Kasey Janowicz • Bay City, Mich. • Bay City Central HS
Selected to the Junior Olympic Level 10 national team in 2014 … was a Level 10 state, regional and JO national qualifier in 2014 … won Level 9 state (floor, beam, bar, and all-around), regional (beam, floor and all-around) and national (beam, floor and all-around) titles in 2013 … member of the Bay Valley Academy … parents are Kimberly Janowicz and William Janowicz.
|Skyler Memmel • Dousman, Wis. • Kettle Moraine HS
Three-time Level 10 national qualifier (2010, 2011 & 2014) … captured a Level 10 regional floor title and finished third in the all-around in 2014 … took 10th on beam at nationals in 2014 … earned a spot in the 2013 Level 10 National Invitational Tournament … qualified for Level 10 regionals five-straight seasons … three-time state all-around and beam champion (2010, 2011 & 2013) while also winning floor titles in 2010 & 2011 and bars in 2011 … a part of the Team Junior A Division champions at the 2010 Junior Olympic Nationals … qualified for the U.S. Challenge in 2009, finished second on beam and third on floor … club program is M&M Gymnastics … parents are Andy Memmel and Jeanelle Memmel.
|Kailey Miller • Lexington, Ky. • Paul Laurence Dunbar HS
Two-time Level 10 National Invitational Tournament qualifier (2013 & 2014) … three-time Level 10 regional and state qualifier (2012, 2013 & 2014) … three-time Level 10 state champion (2012, 2013 & 2014) … took sixth on bars at the 2014 NITs … finished first on floor at Level 9 regional in 2010 and took third in 2011 … member of the Premier Athletics club … parents are DeeAnn Miller and Steve Miller.
|Gianna Plaska • Mountain Top, Pa. • Wyoming Seminary College Prep
Was a Level 10 state, regional and national qualifier in 2013 & 2014 … placed fifth in the all-around at regionals in 2013 and ninth in 2014 … took ninth in the all-around at NIT nationals in 2014 … finished second (2014) and third (2013) at the Level 10 state tournament … was a Level 9 state and regional qualifier in 2011 & 2012 … member of the Northeast Gymnastics Academy club … parents are Ms. Anne Plaksa & Mr. Edward Plaksa.
|Abbie Rose Zoeller • Flowery Branch, Ga. • K12 International Academy
Won vault titles at Level 10 regionals and states in 2014 … was a National Invitational Tournament qualifier on vault in 2014 … took second on bars at the 2014 state meet … two-time Level 10 regional and state qualifier … captured the Level 9 floor national championship in 2011 … won Level 9 state and regional floor titles in 2012 and 2011 … two-time Level 9 national qualifier (2012 & 2013) and three-time regional and state qualifier (2011, 2012 & 2013) … took second on bars, beam, floor and the all-around at the 2011 Level 9 state meet … was the 2009 Level 9 state champion on bars, floor and the all-around … member of Gymnastix Training Center club … parents are Kim and Kevin Zoeller.