Ball State gymnastics (4-8, 2-2 MAC) continued its Mid-American Conference road trip, taking on Eastern Michigan (8-3, 4-1 MAC). While the team saw a 0.600-point improvement since last meet, the Cardinals fell to the Eagles 195.950-194.225. 

With improvement seen throughout the entire roster, there were more positives than negatives to pull out of this meet.

“The team really came out with a sharper focus for this competition,” head coach Joanna Saleem said. “Last week, they just weren’t as fine-tuned on what their job was and what their purpose was. When the sum of the scores come up and they’re not quite what you want them to be, they did a much better job of handling that this week."

Three Cardinals had first place finishes. Freshmen Bri Slonim and Maddie MacDonald tied for first on the vault event with a score of 9.825 and Sophomore Kaitlyn Menzione finished in first on floor with a score of 9.875. Menzione saw improvement since last meet, on three of the four events she competes in.

“I really just wanted to have fun this meet and do my gymnastics set I know how to do,” Menzione said. “I really just focused on taking one skill at a time tonight.”

Since the last meet, the team has looked to switch things up a bit in adding new faces to the line-up and so far it has paid off. This is the second straight meet where freshmen talent has shined, as MacDonald had a third place finish last meet against Bowling Green State.

"Solnim and MacDoanld are coming in and getting some great experience," Saleem said. "You see the nerves coming off and more determination coming in. In years to come, you're going to see a lot more out of those two." 

While it did not count for a score, one of the highlights of the night was from Sophomore Madison Howell. Howell landed her first routine since coming back from injury on the uneven bars.

 “I wasn’t even supposed to come back this season," Howell said. "So being able to be back traveling with the team and nailing my routine finally was hard to put into words.”

After injuring her arm in September, Howell was focused on getting back on the competition floor by slowly training to where she was pre-injury.

"It was a slow process up until the middle of January," Howell said. "I was really focused on making myself better and getting myself more fit than I've ever been, and that made it easer for me to start pushing myself when they gave me the go to start everything again." 

With the meet being broadcasted nationally on ESPN3, it was clear that there was a lot of excitement in the air when Howell stuck the landing on the uneven bars. As she stood tall, with teary eyes, the team rushed the floor to celebrate a successful return. 

"You could really see the weight lifted off of her," Saleem said. "She's worked so hard to be able to go out and perform well. I'm just really, really proud of her." 

Junior Jordyn Penny also had a solid night, placing in the top four in three events. Penny tied for third on vault with a score of 9.800, tied for third on the uneven bars with a score of 9.850 and took fourth on beam with a score of 9.800.

While there was a lot of individual and moral success, the loss reminds the team that there is always more that can be improved. 

"On beam, we're still waiting for all six of them to hit solid routines," Saleem said. "If we can correlate our success on vault and floor to beam and bars, you're going to see a huge jump in out scores. Hopefully we will be able to bring what we have been able to do in the gym out on the floor next week."  

The team will return to Ball State at 1 p.m. March 7 to take on Western Michigan.