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Penny Jernigan named WMU Gymnastics head coach

by Carolyn Binder

Courtesy of WMU Athletics:

Former North Carolina assistant/associate head coach Penny Jernigan was announced as the new head coach for Western Michigan gymnastics on Thursday.

"We are extremely lucky and excited to announce Penny Jernigan as our next gymnastics coach.

She comes with a vast amount of experience not only as an assistant at North Carolina but also as a judge," said WMU athletic director Kathy Beauregard.

"For anyone that knows the sport of gymnastics, having that knowledge is critical in terms of the technique and composition of the routines.  Also working as the NCAA interpreter of rules over the past year definitely gives her an edge.

"Our student-athletes are the most important factor in this and her excitement for this position, her ability to want to challenge this team coming off a MAC title to take that next step to move onto regionals and nationals as a team."

Jernigan comes to WMU after having spent nearly 20 years of collegiate coaching experience to the Broncos, who are coming off a Mid-American Conference championship in 2013.

In 18 years with the Tar Heels, Jernigan developed several talented student-athletes including two-time NCAA Champion and national record holder Courtney Bumpers, who earned All-America on balance beam in 2003 and on floor exercise in 2004 and 2005.

"I am so thrilled about this opportunity and about being the head coach for Western Michigan gymnastics.  I want to thank all of the people who were a part of this process from Kathy Beauregard and Dr. Jon Dunn to the members of Kathy's senior staff and, of course, the student-athletes," said Coach Jernigan.  "Everyone I have met have been amazing individuals.  I am very excited to start working on maintaining and elevating the level of success of this program."

In all, Jernigan coached all five of UNC's East Atlantic Gymnastics League championship teams (2002, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011) and 24 EAGL individual champions.  She has coached seven individual NCAA Championship finalists, including Morgan Evans, UNC's first NCAA regional all-around champion in 2011, and coached the Tar Heels to 11 consecutive team appearances at the NCAA Regional Championships (2002-12).

Jernigan boasts the honor of having coached the only three UNC gymnasts to ever earn perfect scores of 10.00 - Bumpers and Anna Wilson on floor exercise in 2003 and Brooke Wilson on balance beam in 2001.

During her time at UNC, Coach Jernigan helped raise the awareness of Tar Heels gymnastics.  Within a few months the UNC gymnastics Facebook page became one of the top four most popular collegiate gymnastics fan pages in the nation behind only UCLA, Alabama and Utah.  As a result, UNC's home meet attendance doubled in 2011 (No. 16) and doubled again in 2012 (No. 11).

The 1992 Campbell University graduate has extensive coaching experience outside the collegiate level as well, serving as the head coach of the Level 10/Elite Girls Team with GymCarolina Gymnastics Academy from 1992-98.  She has also been a national judge for the National Association of Women's Gymnastics Judges (NAWGJ) since 1994.

Most recently, Coach Jernigan served as a rules interpreter for women's gymnastics at the NCAA during 2012-13.  She was named the NCAA Southeast Region Assistant Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2004 as well as the EAGL Assistant Coach of the Year in 2011.

Jernigan is married to Rayme Jernigan and the couple have a daughter, Blythe.