GYMNASTICS: Coach excited to send four to regionals
Rodriguez, Emmons will lean on experience from 2009 regional
Ball State University will send three gymnasts plus an alternate to the NCAA Central Regionals, as announced by the NCAA Monday afternoon.
Sophomore Brittney Emmons (all-around), senior Bibiana Rodriguez (uneven bars) and freshman Tiffany Brodbeck (floor exercise) will represent the Cardinals in the April 10 meet. Junior Katelyn Busacker will be Rodriguez's alternate on the bars.
"I was pretty confident they were all going to make it," coach Nadalie Walsh said. "But getting the confirmation is really exciting."
The gymnasts were given Monday off after Saturday's Mid-American Conference Championships where Ball State finished in fifth place. Walsh said she made sure to be the first person to call each gymnast to congratulate her.
Walsh said the four gymnasts will continue to work on cleaning up the skills they have worked on all season. She said the focus would be on those minor details that can be the difference between a good and great score.
"We're going to keep doing what we've been doing," Walsh said.
Although none of the Cardinals will be favored to move on from regionals, Walsh said she thinks the payoff of qualifying for nationals is within Ball State's reach.
"In order to achieve something, you have to think about it," Walsh said. "They need to go there and be confident."
The MAC will send two teams and 12 individuals to the postseason. Kent State University will go to the Southeast Regional in Morgantown, W.V., and Central Michigan University will be at the Central Regional in Lexington, Ky.
On the individual level, Ball State has the most gymnasts from the MAC. Bowling Green State University and Eastern Michigan University will send three each and Western Michigan University will send two. Northern Illinois University will also have two representatives at a different site.
This is the second-straight year for Rodriguez and Emmons to advance to the regional competition. Walsh said they should be ready for the atmosphere after competing at the University of Florida this year and the University of Kentucky, where this year's regionals are held, last season.
"The more common it is, the better," Walsh said. "These girls know how to do their routines. It doesn't matter if it's for one, 100 or even 10,000 people. They will be prepared."
For all intents and purposes, the Cardinal gymnasts will be individual competitors at regionals, but Walsh said the team will continue to have a group mindset and they will use one another as support in a hostile environment.
Busacker will prepare for regionals as if she was going to compete, Walsh said, although there is no intention for that to happen, as to do so she would replace Rodriguez on the bars. It's the second time she has been the back-up for regionals; she was the balance beam alternate in 2009.
Ball State has sent gymnasts to regionals for consecutive years. Before 2009, no Cardinals had qualified for the postseason competition since 2003.