GYMNASTICS: Golden Flashes fend off Cardinals

Emmons nearly pulls off upset of MAC's top gymnast

Sometimes, success is just about not beating yourself.

That's what happened Sunday as the Ball State University gymnastics team was able to keep Kent State University in its sights for the whole meet. The Golden Flashes, two-time defending Mid-American Conference champions and preseason favorites to win a third straight title, outlasted the Cardinals 194.5-193.15.

Ball State (5-7, 0-4 Mid-American Conference) was able to count 20 clean routines in Sunday's meet, allowing the Cardinals to get their second-best score of the season.

"We brought it together very nicely," junior Katelyn Busacker said. "We didn't have one event that was completely disastrous. We did all four events solid and consistent."

Coach Nadalie Walsh said she was happy with the overall performance.

"I was excited to get a 193 because that should be easy for us, but I thought we had to work hard for it," she said.

One reason the Cardinals had to work so hard was because they had to scramble to adjust their lineup at the last minute. Senior Ashley Jacob had the flu and was unable to compete, and sophomore Kayla Kmiecik was limited to the uneven bars to get her to full health for next week's meet, Walsh said.

"We had to make a lot of changes, so this was a lot of our depth that went out there [today,]" she said. "Our depth went in and did a really good job."

One such "depth" gymnast was sophomore Christa Greinke, who had season-bests on both the vault and floor exercise.

"Having her be able to go out there and do what she did was what made us get our 193," Walsh said. "She did a great job."

Ball State was fortunate not to lose another gymnast during the meet. Senior Bibiana Rodriguez landed short on her vault and came off limping. She was able to regroup to compete on the bars, adjusting her routine and salvaging a 9.6.

"It just wasn't her best performance," Walsh said. "We depend on her big score [on bars]. It's just a matter of being able to shake it off and go to the next event."

Another key matchup on Sunday was between two of the top all-around gymnasts in the MAC. Kent State's Christine Abou-Mitri, the top scoring gymnast in the conference this year, held off Ball State's Brittney Emmons 39.1-38.975.

"Being able to compete against her was really cool," Emmons said. "It does show that I have the potential to be just as good."

Emmons had one of her best performances of the year, scoring above a 9.7 on all four events for the second time this season.

"I was very excited to see some of my better scores to come out at this meet," she said. "There's still a little room for improvement here and there, though."

She said her goal now is to push her score above 39 regularly and be able to consistency compete with the top gymnasts in the conference and region.

Two career bests were posted Sunday: freshman Nicole Allen had a 9.75 on the floor and sophomore Ellie Carrico put up a 9.675 on the balance beam.

Busacker also had her best meet since Feb. 5 against Illinois State University. Her second-place score of 9.775 on the bars almost did not happen though.

When she was standing on the lower bar preparing for a transition to the upper bar, she wobbled, nearly falling and ruining the routine. She was able to maintain her balance and complete a clean routine.

"That's when what you do in practice counts," Busacker said. "If in practice you give up, then you'll probably fall in the meet."

Along with Abou-Mitri, the Golden Flashes (7-2, 4-0 MAC) were led by freshman Lindsay Runyan and senior Sam Heydlauff. Runyan won the bars and Heydlauff took the floor.
The Cardinals had one victory on the day. The team won the beam 48.3-48.1. It is the season-high score for Ball State on that apparatus.

Ball State will return to action Friday when it faces No. 4 University of Florida and the University of North Carolina in Gainesville, Fla.

Walsh said she had been expecting scores of 9.6 or better from her team on every routine, but is now ready to push those expectations to 9.7 each.

"We're definitely capable of that," she said.

For more on the Cardinals' regional hopes, check back tonight with

Click here to view an audio slideshow about the gymnastics team's weekly routine leading up to a meet.