Courtesy: Tim Fitzgerald/CMU Athletics
No. 24 CMU Travels for MAC Showdown with No. 22 Kent State
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Mid-American Conference gymnastics powers will collide on Friday night when three-time defending champion and 24th-ranked Central Michigan visits preseason favorite No. 22 Kent State for a 7 p.m. showdown at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center in Kent. At stake potentially is an early inside track to the MAC regular season title.

The Chippewas and the Golden Flashes have dominated the league over the last quarter of a century, as the programs have combined to win 22 of the last 25 MAC championships, including the last five. CMU leads the conference with 13 titles. A year ago, CMU defeated Kent State, head-to-head in a dual meet in Mount Pleasant (194.475-193.550) and at the 2012 MAC Championships (195.625-195.225). The Chippewas, overall, hold a 34-24 all-time record versus Kent State.

CMU remained undefeated at home last weekend, downing Northern Illinois, 194.800-194.025, in McGuirk Arena as part of the Royal Rumble and Tumble. The Chippewas got strong performances from all-arounders Brittany Petzold (39.075) and Becca Druien (39.050), who finished 1-2 in the standings, to secure their first MAC win of the season. Central Michigan won three of the four events both as a team and individually. Petzold tied for first in the vault (9.825) while Druien claimed the top spot in the uneven bars with a personal best score of 9.850. Junior Emily Heinz was Central’s other title winner, capturing the balance beam crown with a 9.800.

After six weeks of competition, CMU is ranked highest nationally in the balance beam (No. 21). The Chippewas are also ranked No. 24 in the floor exercise and No. 29 in the vault and the uneven bars. Individually, at the regional level, CMU has two gymnasts in the top 12: sophomore Kylie Fagan (No. 9, uneven bars) and sophomore Halle Moraw (No. 11, floor exercise; No. 12, balance beam).

Kent State is coming off a second straight dual meet win, defeating non-conference foe Rutgers, 195.675-193.700, at home a week ago. The Golden Flashes have passed both MAC tests thus far this year, topping Western Michigan, 194.675- 194.125, at home on January 25 and Bowling Green, 195.800-193.825, on the road on February 2. KSU’s lone setbacks in 2013 have come at the hands of No. 11 Minnesota and Iowa State. The Golden Flashes are led by junior Marie Case, the nation’s No. 25-ranked all-arounder, and senior Rachel Guida, who is ranked No. 8 nationally in the uneven bars.

Central Michigan remains on the road next weekend, traveling to Kalamazoo to face rival Western Michigan. The Chippewas and the Broncos will meet on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 1 p.m. at University Arena in Read Fieldhouse. CMU has more wins, 66, against Western Michigan than any other opponent in program history, including two last season.