In her seven years as head coach of Ball State’s gymnastics team, Joanna Saleem had never beaten Eastern Michigan. After Sunday's meet, Saleem and her Cardinals swept the season series between the two.
There was something special about the Sunday afternoon win over the Eagles. The 195.750-195.425 win for the Cardinals broke the school record for a total score, topping the previous record of 195.650, which was set at the Mid-American Conference Championship in 2016.
“Sure is a great day to have a great day, isn’t it?” Saleem said. “When you’re looking at a double weekend for this group that’s kind of younger, it’s nice to be able to see that they can go out and have a solid meet on Friday and then come back and follow that up with something even better.”
The Cardinals are now 4-0 at home and 3-1 in the MAC with five meets to go until the conference championship.
On Friday, Ball State got by Eastern Michigan by the slimmest of margins with a .025 victory. Sunday's meet was just as close up until the last performance where junior Claudia Goyco tied her career high on floor with a score of 9.900.
Before the meet, Saleem asked Goyco if “Shalissa” was going to be present for the competition. Going into Goyco’s floor routine, Ball State was still losing on the scoreboard, so she went out and channeled her alter ego, “Shalissa.”
“I just act like I have nothing to lose, and I am just as good as I think I am and probably even better,” Goyco said. “So, I just have to embrace that because sometimes I don’t believe it for myself. It’s better to just pretend.”
Goyco’s performance was the icing on the cake that capped off a record-breaking day for the Cardinals.
“I didn’t even know what the school record was, so I had no idea,” Goyco said. “So, when I was told, I wanted to cry. I was very surprised and super incredibly proud of my entire team for pulling it together. It takes an army to do well.
Personal records were recorded in every discipline for the Cardinals. Senior Bri Slonim tied for first in vault with sophomore teammate Stefanie Schweikert at 9.850. Freshmen Megan Teter and Grace Evans tied for second and set bests on bars with junior teammate Arden Hudson not far behind.
Sophomore Lauren Volpe tied for first with three Eagles and set a personal best of 9.825 on balance beam. Finally, Goyco tied her best on floor with sophomore Marissa Nychyk, finishing in second with her record of 9.875.
“Our message to these young ladies is to continue to trust the training and trust the plan,” Saleem said. “From the beginning, we wanted to come out strong, and then continue to build throughout the rest of the season and be able to peak at conference. When they can come out and have a solid meet like this, that only adds to their confidence and gives them the ability to come in the next week and get just a little bit better for that next competition.”
The Cardinals beat the Eagles in every event aside from beam. Although they’ve struggled throughout the season, Ball State set a season high on the bars with a score of 48.900.
“It was nice for them to get up and have a nice solid event on bars, and we’ve been waiting for that this year,” Saleem said. “It’s kind of been like trying to flip that puzzle piece around. The pieces are all there, but it’s just trying to make sure that we get it to where it fits, and I think they did a solid job of that today.”
With the win, Ball State improved to 8-4 overall, two short of its win total a season ago. The Cardinals will face Kent State in Worthen Arena next Sunday, a team that has won eight straight and is 8-1 overall.