Rhett Umphress

The Ball State University gymnastics team is taking advantage of the extra week of preparation before it competes in the NCAA Central Regionals on April 10.

"That is the weekend to be the superstar," graduate assistant coach Will Stokley said.

Brittney Emmons (all-around), Bibiana Rodriguez (uneven bars), Tiffany Brodbeck (floor exercise) and alternate Katelyn Busacker (bars) will represent their Cardinal teammates in Lexington, Ky. They have eight more days to get ready.

Although the stakes may be higher – a national berth is at stake – Stokley said the team is trying to treat practice like they have all season.

"We're trying to keep it as close to a normal practice schedule as we can without putting too much wear and tear on them," he said.

The opportunity to have more one-on-one work with the gymnasts should be beneficial in getting them ready for next weekend.

"There's definitely more room in the gym," Stokley said with a laugh. "But the more eyes we get on the girls, the better."

Rodriguez said the extra attention is helpful, but she also knows what skills she needs to work on and when she's not quite perfect.

"It's something you can tell when you're doing it by yourself," she said. "But it helps to have a coach there."

Stokley said the key aspects the team is working on are clean landings on the floor and making sure they are getting vertical handstands on the bars.

"The biggest goal is to go out there and hit our routines," he said.

Emmons said she has been working on tighter, cleaner lines to compete with some of the top gymnasts in the nation.

Rodriguez said the extra week and greater focus on one event has given her the chance to work on the basics. She said the gymnasts are trying to make sure they are having effective, not exhausting, practices.

Emmons said the goal for regionals is to "treat it no differently than anything else." Even if the odds are against her, she said she knows nationals is within her reach.

"My goal is to go out there and do what I know how to do," she said. "I can hang with all of these big schools."

Rodriguez said that the team can get too worked up over the regionals meet.

"It's just another meet," she said. "It's not really anything different than we've done all year."

One benefit has been a more relaxed atmosphere in practice. With only four gymnasts competing for time on the different apparatuses, Emmons said there is more time for each gymnast to get the practice time she needs.

The team is also looking back at past performances to know what skills need improvement, Emmons said.

"We sat down and watched the video from the MAC [Championships], to find out what we need to work on," she said.

One gymnast who hasn't had the regional experience yet is freshman Brodbeck. Emmons said she has given Brodbeck some advice on dealing with the new environment, but thinks she will be just fine.

"[Brodbeck's] a pretty good freshman in dealing with the stress," Emmons said.

Rodriguez said that the experience of being in regionals in 2009 will help to get rid of some of the nerves she felt last season.

Although the team had a pretty good idea of their qualifying status before the announcement, Emmons said she was happy to hear she had qualified for regionals in the all-around.

"It was definitely very exciting," the sophomore said. "People tell you, ‘Oh yeah, you're going,' but you're never definitely sure until you get the official word."