GYMNASTICS: Cardinals duo ready for regionals
Bond between gymnasts will help in difficult atmosphere
Both gymnasts are soft spoken when they talk. They prefer to let their routines speak for them.
A successful season for junior Brittney Emmons and sophomore Nicole Allen will continue Saturday when the pair competes at the NCAA Central Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
"I'm totally ready for Saturday," Allen said. "I think I've been ready for a long time."
Emmons and Allen are peaking at the right time as they head to regionals.
Emmons scored a 38.9 or better in five of the past six meets. Allen is now a two-time MAC champion on the vault and floor exercise.
"It felt so good just to see that hard work pay off," Allen said.
Coach Nadalie Walsh has sent two all-around gymnasts to regionals for the second time in school history — the first was in 2003.
"It's hard to send all-arounds, and we have the top two all-around [individual qualifiers] in the region," Walsh said. "... I feel like they are just as good as any other all-around that's going to be at that meet."
For Emmons, qualifying for regionals again represents her comeback from offseason surgery that slowed her to start the year.
"I think it means I worked my butt off to get back to where I was," she said. "It wasn't easy."
It's been a lonelier practice room recently. They've been the only gymnasts practicing most days since the MAC championships.
With fewer people to lean on, the gymnasts have relied on each other, Walsh said.
"These two girls are such good friends," Walsh said. "They're the perfect two to support each other through this meet."
Emmons has been trying to mentor Allen, giving her insight into what competing at regionals is like. Allen said she's had appreciated the guidance.
Emmons said it helps that she and Allen approach gymnastics with a similar mindset.
"We really love this sport, and we want to do well," Emmons said. "Now that we don't have our team, we want to do well for this team and represent it."
Despite having two weeks to prepare for the regional competition as opposed to the standard one, the Cardinals have tried to stick to what worked during the regular season, Emmons said.
"[Walsh] really wanted to try to keep it the same for us, because that's what we've been doing all season long and we've been doing just fine," Emmons said. "Why change what's been working basically?"
Practices have been shorter. With just two gymnasts at practice, they have been getting through their repetitions much quicker. Walsh said the pair took a few days off to rest as well.
This will be Emmons' third trip to regionals and her second in the all-around. Last season, she competed in the all-around by herself, finishing 17th.
Emmons said she appreciates having Allen going through the same competition with her this season.
"It's like you have a buddy to train with on each event," Emmons said. "It's just nice to have that second person."
Walsh said she was pleased by their teamwork between the pair.
"There's no competitiveness between them," she said. "They are just genuinely happy for each other."
Regionals will be a difficult environment, featuring competition from No. 2 Alabama and the No. 1-ranked gymnast — Penn State's Sharaya Musser. Even so, neither Allen nor Emmons want the season to end Saturday.
"I know what I'm capable of," Allen said. "The fact that I've actually accomplished it means I need to keep practicing hard.
"I want to make nationals."
Ball State at NCAA Central Regional
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
VENUE: Coleman Coliseum; Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Where the gymnasts are ranked in each event against their regional foes
Emmons – 15th
Allen – 16th
Allen – 15th
Emmons – 26th
Emmons – 33rd
Allen – 38th
Allen – 35th
Emmons – 38th
Allen – 27th
Emmons – 30th