Rhett Umphress

Another meet, another format for Ball State's Brittney Emmons and Nicole Allen.

After a long Mid-American Conference championships two weeks ago, Saturday's Central Regional will present a few new problems for the Cardinals.

The Ball State gymnasts will be starting on events they haven't begun on all season. Emmons' first rotation is on the floor exercise — one of her best events — and Allen will start on the balance beam.

Emmons expressed mixed emotions about starting on the floor.

"It's different, in my opinion, every day that I think about it," Emmons said. "I can see it being a good thing, and I can see it being a bad thing."

They won't be competing together either. As individual qualifiers, they are paired with team qualifiers and follow the team's rotation. Emmons will be paired with No. 2 Alabama and Allen will compete with No. 11 Penn State.

"I just talked to them a little bit about being invested in that team and really cheering for those other girls," coach Nadalie Walsh said. "Those other girls and those coaches are going to embrace them as one of their team members."

Finally, it will be a lonelier arena for the Cardinals. Unlike last season, when the rest of the Ball State team made the trip to Lexington, Ky., the 600-mile trek to Tuscaloosa, Ala., means the Cardinals' only direct supporters will be Walsh and her staff.

Emmons said she knows the team will be with them in spirit.

Despite the challenges, Walsh is confident the gymnasts have a good chance at regionals. She stressed an anything-can-happen attitude.

"If they do what they always do, I have no doubts they could end up placing really, really well," Walsh said.

The vault is one area where the gymnasts could make a major impact. The top score at the 2010 Central Regional on the vault was a 9.9 — the same score Allen had at the MAC championships.

Qualifying for nationals will require a first-place finish in the all-around or one of the four events.

"The whole goal is to go to nationals, and I'm going to aim for that," she said. "It's a very big goal, but I see that it's very attainable."

Making her second trip to regionals in the all-around, Emmons said she now knows that there's no reason for her to be nervous. Her uneasiness led to a pair of mistakes in last season's regionals, something she will clearly hope to avoid this year.

Walsh said she wants the gymnasts to trust their gymnastics and their abilities.

"They have been prepared for this all year," she said. "We didn't prepare for this these last two weeks. They've been preparing the entire time."

Saturday's meet begins at 7 p.m.