A balance beam is four inches wide. It is about as difficult for a gymnast to stay on the beam while leaping and flipping as it was for Ball State students to safely navigate to and from class this week without falling.
The Ball State gymnastics team couldn't stay upright on the beam Friday night, falling three times. Those blunders proved costly, as Ball State lost 193.25-191.975 to Illinois State.
"I don't feel like this is the beam team that we have. It just was what we had today," coach Nadalie Walsh said.
Going into the meet, Walsh said the team with the fewest errors would win, and she was right.
"[The Redbirds] weren't better than us, but we made too many mistakes," she said.
After the beam debacle, the Cardinals (1-5) put up a spirited attempt at a comeback on the floor exercise, putting up five scores of 9.7 or better. The Redbirds (6-4) opened the door slightly when freshman Jenna Bossie fell twice on the beam, but they managed to hang on for the victory.
Illinois State coach Bob Conkling said he though his team's best event should be the beam, but he wasn't pleased with the performance Friday.
"We've got superstars on balance beam, and they're just not doing what we need them to do that," he said. "If they can do that, beam will be one of our best events."
The Cardinals sole event win came on the floor. Individually, sophomore Nicole Allen won the vault with a 9.75.
"There's always little things that you need to clean — get those extra tenths to help your team," she said. "But I was pretty OK with my performance."
Despite getting first in the event, Allen said sticking the vault was one skill she wanted to work on.
"You can always improve," she said.
Allen and sophomore Tiffany Brodbeck tied for first on the floor with a 9.8 — a season high for Brodbeck.
"On floor, I was just ready to kick butt," Brodbeck said. "Last weekend, I had a great floor, so I was like, ‘I just need to do this again.' It was back to normal."
Senior Erica Schick led Illinois State with victories on the bars and the all-around, while senior Hannah Deutsch picked up the Redbirds' other individual win on the beam.
Ball State had career highs from freshmen Kristin Vignola (vault and floor) and Amber Mirski (floor) to go with five season highs.
Walsh singled out Mirski for her performance, adding that she's feeling more comfortable relying on the Cardinal freshmen.
"That's what our season thus far has been. It's figuring out who we can trust," Walsh said.
Junior Brittney Emmons started the night strong, picking up second-place finishes on the vault and the uneven bars. But she struggled in the second half, falling on the beam and the floor.
Ball State will travel to Illinois-Chicago on Friday for its next shot at picking up win No. 2. Walsh summed up what she expects to work on for the next week:
"Hitting beam routines."