Freshman Sydney Finke smiles to the judges after landing at the end of routine on the beam during the meet against Eastern Michigan and Illinois State on Jan. 24 in Worthen Arena. DN PHOTO BREANNA DAUGHERTY
Preparing for MAC Championship: Q&A with Ball State gymnasts
Ball State University is hosting the Mid-American Conference Championship this year for women’s gymnastics. The seven gymnastics teams within the conference will gather in Worthen Arena for the big competition on March 19.
The hosting duty rotates between the schools, so it has been seven years since Muncie was home to the competition. The first MAC Championship was in 1981, and Ball State won its last title in 2002.
Ball State gymnasts junior Shelby Arms and freshman Sydney Finke talked about the team’s approach to the championship and what it’s like to be hosting.
Can you explain a little more about what the championship competition is?
Arms: It’s where all the MAC schools compete against each other in one setting. The winner, ... if they have the right [regional qualifying score], gets to go to regionals or nationals.
From your perspective, how does the team prepare for MAC?
Arms: Especially since this year's MAC [championship] is at home, I’m going to treat it like any other meet. ... Since it’s at home, we have to do promotional stuff to try to get as many Ball State students and families there. Otherwise, ... by the end of the season, we are already working on polishing and so in the gym, we just keep trying to be consistent and hit the little details that we need to hit.
Finke: I think just a lot of routines. The whole season is just leading up to MAC, so all the meets that we do during the season are in preparation for MAC.
Do you feel a difference in the atmosphere in the gym now that it’s getting closer?
Arms: You go through stages. So, at the beginning of the season, we’re worried about going out there and staying on the equipment. Then, as the season progresses, we work on the little details. ... So, I think it’s kind of more intense because everyone is trying so hard to focus on the little things, but it’s still a fun atmosphere.
Finke: I think so. I think we realize we are doing a lot better now than we were at the beginning of the season. The team is working really hard and really stepping it up getting ready for MAC.
So how do you feel as a junior preparing since you have already experienced MAC?
Arms: This one is a lot different because there are so many people there because all seven schools have a section and it gets super loud. ... At MAC, you have corrals, so you have little places where your team can’t be right on top of you. So you have to not rely on your team so much because you’re not going to be able to hear them as much.
How do you feel as a freshman preparing since you haven’t experienced MAC before?
Finke: I’m really not sure. I kind of just go in with an open mind about how the competition is going to go. Obviously I’m going to ask my teammates about the ins and the outs of how the day is going to work. Other than that, I’m just ready to go out there and compete.
What was it like competing there for your first time?
Arms: The crowd was one of the biggest ones I’ve ever seen. There’s four events and seven teams, so having a bye is kind of weird. You will do two events and then go to the locker room to hang out for a little bit. It’s kind of weird to be able to get psyched up, then have to chill out, then to get yourself re-pumped up. ... As a freshman, that was one of the toughest things.
You talked about how special it is to host this competition. What are you hoping for that day, especially with all the fans?
Arms: Each team gets 120 seats, so I hope that we fill all 120 seats. Everyone else that comes sits sporadically. ... I really hope to have a lot of fans there. I think it’s going to be awesome to have other Ball State students that aren’t familiar with the gymnastics world.
The MAC Championship takes place at 2 p.m. on March 19 in Worthen Arena. Tickets for the event are $10 for adults and $5 for youth and students.