Freshman Tia Kiaku and sophomore Bri Slonim selected to compete in NCAA Central Regional

<p>Freshman Tia Kiaku competes on beam during the Red vs. White Intersquad meet Dec. 4 in John E. Worthen Arena. Kiaku is one of six freshmen this year. <strong>Kaiti Sullivan, DN File</strong></p>

Freshman Tia Kiaku competes on beam during the Red vs. White Intersquad meet Dec. 4 in John E. Worthen Arena. Kiaku is one of six freshmen this year. Kaiti Sullivan, DN File

While team competition may have concluded, two Ball State gymnasts have been selected to compete in the NCAA Central Regional. Freshman Tia Kiaku was selected to compete as an individual specialist on floor, and sophomore Bri Slonim will act as an alternate on beam.

“Both Tia and Bri have been extremely consistent this season,” head coach Joanna Saleem said. “They both have high scoring potential. Tia scored a 9.900 on floor as a freshman and has scored high throughout meets this season and has shown why she has qualified for regionals.”

Kaiku had a breakout year on floor this season, tying her career high score of 9.900 twice this season. She also finished in a tie for third place this past weekend at the Mid-American Conference Championship. Kiaku’s finish was the highest finish for the Cardinals on the day.

While Kiaku is focused on a strong performance at regionals, she is also looking forward to enjoying the opportunity to compete in the postseason.

“I’m just focused on having fun,” Kiaku said. “The more fun I have, the more confident I am in my performance.”

This is the first time since 2016 that the Cardinals have sent an individual specialist to a Regional competition. The Cardinals sent five specialists and one alternate to the Iowa City Regional two season ago. According to Kiaku, she feels no pressure in being the only specialist representing the Cardinals.

“I trust my gymnastics, coaches and training,” Kiaku said. “I’m just going to go out there and do what I’ve been doing for the entire season.”

Slonim had the second-highest score this season on vault with a score of 9.875 against Kent State, where she also took first place. She also tied for the team high score on vault for six out of the 12 meets this season.

Slonim was surprised that she was selected to be an alternate but is prepared to compete when needed.

“You never know when you’re going to be called in to compete,” Slonim said. “You just have to treat the meet as they same way you would if you were competing. I'm just ready for anything.”

While it is rare that alternates do get called in to compete, it does happen. Two years ago, senior Jordyn Penny, who contended for regionals as an alternate, was called in to compete after a specialist could not.

“We hope for the best and prepare for the worst when getting ready for an alternate position,” Saleem said. “We’re going to be training in a way that if we get there, something has happened, and Bri will have the opportunity to go."

While the preparation for regionals has been spontaneous and a little hectic, both regional qualifiers are excited to be competing this weekend.

“It’s cool to compete with the girls I’ve looked at as role models growing up,” Kiaku said. “To be in a meet with them is awesome.”

The NCAA Central Regional will take place April 7 at St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio, at 6 p.m.

Contact Jack Williams at or on Twitter @JackWilliamsBSU.


More from The Daily

Loading Recent Classifieds...