Ball State gymnastics kicked off its 2018 season Monday with the annual intersquad Red vs. White meet.

After a rough campaign last season that resulted in a 6-11 record, the Cardinals are looking for a strong start to this year's season.

“We want to improve on the season and just stay consistent with keeping the common goal in mind of peaking at the end of the season,” head coach Joanna Saleem said. “We have a lot of individual goals, but we want to make sure we are all in the same mindset of going out, having fun and representing what we’re doing in the gym out on the floor.”

After losing five seniors, including 2017 NCAA Regional alternate Sarah Ebeyer, the team has filled those spots by welcoming six freshmen to the roster. While there is still development that needs to be done, Saleem sees this as an advantage for the team.

“Inevitably there is going to be some hit and misses here till they get that confidence out on the competition floor and do what is expected of a college gymnast,” Saleem said. “I think this large freshman class will add a lot of depth to the season. Hopefully we will be able to see them all compete this year.”

A few notable gymnasts returning to the floor this season are junior Kaitlyn Menzione and seniors Baylee Bell and Jordan Penny.

Last season Menzione broke a career-high record on the floor event with a score of 9.900 and had the top three best scores for the floor event. Bell and Penny both held the top score on beam with a 9.750. Bell also held four of the top seven scores on beam, while Penny held the top scores on bars (9.875) and vault (9.850).

“I want to remember my purpose this season and just remember to give it all to the team when I am out there,” Bell said. “We put in all the work during preseason, so now I just want to have fun.”

Ball State's nonconference schedule is extremely similar to last season’s. Four of the teams the Cardinals will face this season were on the list last season as well. These matchups include its seventh straight meeting with Kentucky and a rematch with North Carolina State after recording an upset last season.

“The big thing in competing in these out-of-conference matchups is getting to be around those top-25 programs,” Saleem said. “This allows us to get out there and stay competitive with these bigger schools. That confidence that we can build early on will benefit us going into our conference schedule.”

While the team looks to stay sharp throughout the year, it still holds onto the idea of having fun while getting the job done.

“I’m looking forward to having a blast with the team this season and having a winning year,” Bell said.

The team will open up its schedule at a quad meet against Kentucky, Southeast Missouri State and George Washington on Jan. 5 in Lexington, Kentucky. 

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