Courtesy: Tim Fitzgerald/CMU Athletics
Sophomore Kylie Fagan completes a balance beam routine. Fagan won the uneven bars and balance beams titles to lead CMU to a victory at the Illinois-Michigan Challenge.
No. 23 CMU Bests Field at Illinois-Michigan Challenge with Season High Score
CHICAGO – On the strength of a stellar meet-ending vault set, the No. 23 Central Michigan gymnastics team established a team season high score while topping the field at the Illinois-Michigan Challenge on Saturday night in Chicago. The Chippewas fell narrowly shy of reaching its season-long goal of 196.000 but scored an impressive 195.875 to outdistance Illinois State (194.100), Eastern Michigan (192.850), and host Illinois-Chicago (192.550).

Michigan won the challenge with CMU and EMU combining to best UIC and Illinois State, 388.725-386.650.

CMU won every event as a team and captured two event titles individually. The Chippewas led for most of the meet but put the finishing touches on the win in the final rotation with a terrific performance in the vault. Every competitor in the line-up earned at least a score of 9.825, led by freshman Kirsten Petzold’s 9.900 second-place effort.

“To see a freshman do that is terrific,” said CMU head coach Jerry Reighard. “I think she was empowered. We had a grueling week of practice. We were demanding perfection and I think she started to respond. She has figured out what you do during the week translates to how you perform in a competition.”

Sophomore Kylie Fagan accounted for both of CMU’s individual title wins, taking the uneven bars (9.850) outright while sharing the balance beam crown (9.875).     

“I think Kylie Fagan was our MVP for the night,” Reighard said. “She turned a mediocre bars set into a good bars set and she had one of her best beam routines of the season.”

CMU started the competition on the uneven bars, totaling a 48.625, but unstuck dismounts prevented the Chippewas from staking an early lead. After the first rotation, the Chippewas were in the thick of it but were slightly behind in the team standings.

The tide began to shift in the second rotation when CMU headed to the balance beam.

“They did a great job of blocking out the crowd and distractions and came away with a good beam day. They started to really feel it and everyone got on the train,” said Reighard.

In addition to Fagan’s second straight first place performance, sophomores Halle Moraw and Taylor Noonan performed well, tying for third place with identical scores of 9.825.

The trend continued in the floor exercise, as CMU began to open up its lead with a solid set. Senior Emily LaFontaine and sophomore Halle Moraw each scored a 9.850 to tie for second while junior Brittany Petzold came back strong after a week off from competing on the floor, recording a 9.825.

CMU then sealed the victory in the vault. Brittany Petzold, Emily Heinz, and Tori Garcia each scored a 9.850 and senior Meaghan McWhorter and sophomore Becca Druien recorded 9.825s to go along with Kirsten Petzold’s standout 9.900.

“I knew we had the potential to score 195.000 but we had to get 9.700s,” said Reighard. “I gave them the green light and told them to go for it and great things happened. It was a good day for CMU.”

Next weekend, Central Michigan will return to McGuirk Arena for the showcase home event of the 2013 season. On Friday, Feb. 8, the gymnastics and wrestling programs will come together for the Royal Rumble and Tumble. Gymnastics will face Northern Illinois while the wrestling squad battles Eastern Michigan in an extravaganza that features both teams competing simultaneously on the same floor. The event is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Fans that "Like" CMU Athletics' Facebook Page can purchase tickets at a discounted rate of just $3 through February 6.