Rhett Umphress

Chalk it up to a learning experience.

The Ball State University's gymnastics team competed against one of the best programs in the nation Friday night. No. 4 University of Florida won the three-team meet with a 197.55.

The University of North Carolina finished in second with a 194.225. The Cardinals' finished with 191.35.

Florida had no routine score lower than a 9.8 and did not have to count a score lower than 9.825.

The Cardinals learned what it was like to have the big time gymnastics experience, coach Nadalie Walsh said.

"They have thousands of fans all yelling and screaming," she said. "The fans would know all their girls' names and routines. It was an amazing environment. As I develop this program, I want them to experience that."

Walsh said some gymnasts responded well to the environment, such as sophomore Brittney Emmons and senior Bibiana Rodriguez, but others struggled.

"I could make excuses – they were freshmen or the environment – but the reality was this was a completely different environment," Walsh said.

She said the girls were overexerting themselves. The excess adrenaline made them over-rotate and miss their landings.

Despite a slow start on the balance beam, Emmons finished with the only top five finishes on the day for the Cardinals. She finished in a tie for fourth on the vault (9.85) and was in a fifth-place tie on the floor exercise (9.85). She finished in sixth in the all-around (38.275).

Junior Katelyn Busacker led Ball State (5-9) on the uneven bars with a 9.8 and freshman Tiffany Brodbeck was the top scoring Cardinal on the beam with a 9.7. Sophomore Christa Greinke had a career high on the vault (9.6) and senior Megan Howard put up a season high 9.575 on the beam.

The Tar Heels (7-4) had their best performance of the season. Senior Kara Wright led North Carolina with a 39.2 in the all-around.

Florida (8-2) just turned out to be flawless Friday night. As expected, freshman Ashanée Dickerson, the No. 5 gymnast in the nation, finished in first in the all-around with a 39.475, and freshman Marissa King kept pace with her Gator teammate to tie for the all-around title.

Walsh had a couple of unique scheduling choices Friday. Freshman Emily Wehrle and sophomore Ellie Carrico were held out of the meet due to nagging injuries.

On the floor, Ball State had only five gymnasts compete rather than the usual six, largely due to Wehrle and Carrico's absence.

"We had nobody to do a routine safe and healthy," Walsh said. "We did what we could with what we had."

This hurt the Cardinals as freshmen Nicole Allen and Amber Parsley both suffered falls on their routines. Without a sixth gymnast, Ball State was forced to count both scores.

Ball State's 191.35 is their sixth-best performance of the year, so its Regional Qualifying Score will increase.

The Ball State gymnasts will spend the weekend in Florida before returning to Muncie to prepare for their matchup with Central Michigan University on Saturday.

Check bsudailynews.com Monday to see how the Cardinals are doing in their effort to qualify for regionals.