Courtesy: Tim Fitzgerald/CMU Athletics
High-Scoring Floor Set Highlights No. 24 CMU's Win Over EMU
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – On the strength of a phenomenal floor exercise set, No. 24 Central Michigan put an exclamation mark on the 2013 regular season with a commanding 196.000-193.500 victory over Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon in McGuirk Arena. CMU’s total score marks the second time this season it has met or surpassed the coveted 196.000 benchmark.

“Today was an outstanding day for our entire team,” said CMU head coach Jerry Reighard. “I couldn’t be more thrilled for them and for our seniors to have such a great competition in their last time competing in McGuirk Arena.”

“This is a real confidence boost for us. The excitement versus the alternative is very, very important. I have had teams that have rallied to win a championship after having a disastrous last meet and that’s not an easy coaching situation and certainly not an easy situation for an athlete to clear their head and put it behind them. We don’t have to do that.”

In their final tune-up before pursuing their fourth consecutive MAC championship next weekend, the Chippewas started shaky but ended with a bang, scoring a season high 49.325 in the floor exercise in the final rotation. All six competitors remarkably scored a 9.850 or above, led by freshman Taylor Bolender, senior Emily LaFontaine, and junior Brittany Petzold, who each recorded a title-winning 9.875.

“The floor exercise was the best I can remember in a long, long time,” said Reighard. “And, of course, this team has won three MAC titles. They really put it together. They knew what was on the line. I told them I wanted to throw out a 9.850 on floor and they know what that means. Darned, if they didn’t go out and do it and do it maybe better than we ever have.”

Bolender, who was the leadoff performer in both the uneven bars and floor exercise, had the best meet of her rookie campaign, registering season high scores in each event. In the bars, she set the tone by scoring a 9.850, securing a third place finish.

“I have the greatest respect for Taylor. She has given us exactly what I thought she was going to deliver. She is a very, very accomplished collegiate gymnast now and she does it with ease. And that’s what a lot of athletes aren’t able to do,” Reighard said.

Petzold continued to storm through the competition, as she has now firmly staked her claim to the title of top all-arounder in the MAC. She claimed a share of the floor titles and placed second in the uneven bars and the balance beam to win her fifth all-around crown of the season with an impressive score of 39.300.

CMU opened the meet on the vault and felt short of expectations, scoring a 48.725, its lowest score in the event since January 11. However, Meaghan McWhorter, competing for her final time in McGuirk Arena on Senior Day, salvaged the event for the Chippewas by scoring a 9.825 and tying for the top spot in the standings.

Moving to the uneven bars in rotation two, CMU picked up the pace, scoring a 49.100, its second best total this season in the event. Sophomore Kylie Fagan, who is ranked No. 2 in the MAC in the bars, won for the seventh time this season, scoring a 9.900. Fagan has not scored below a 9.800 in the event since week one.

Central carried its wave of momentum to the balance beam in rotation three. Sophomore Taylor Noonan, the MAC’s top-ranked beam performer, won the event with a score of 9.850, headlining a top three sweep in the standings. Following Petzold’s second place finish, sophomores Preslee Harrald and Becca Druien tied for third (9.750).

With 196.000 within its grasp, CMU attained it by putting together a floor exercise set for the stages, breaching the 49.000 barrier in the event for an impressive five straight meet. Just how good was the floor line-up for CMU? Five of the six competitors set career highs while sophomore Halle Moraw tied her season best with a 9.850.

Central Michigan will return to action next weekend when it travels to Kalamazoo, Mich. to seek its 14th overall conference title at the 2013 MAC Championships. The annual conference competition will take place on Saturday, March 23 at 2 p.m. at University Arena in Read Fieldhouse on the host campus of Western Michigan University.