Ball State continues perfect season with conference victory over Northern Illinois

Before COVID-19 cut last year’s 11-win season short, the last time Ball State Gymnastics had more than 10 wins was 2002.

Fast forward to Feb. 14, 2021, and the Cardinals have already defeated their 11th opponent this season — this time against Northern Illinois. Ball State continued its perfect season and improved to 11-0 with a 195.275-193.350 victory over the Huskies. 

The Cardinals came into Sunday’s meet on short rest, after finishing first place out of five teams Feb. 12 at the GymQuarters Invitational in St. Charles, Missouri.

“We had a few mistakes Friday,” head coach Joanna Saleem said. “While we still had a couple mistakes here and there [Sunday], we were definitely a lot more confident coming into our home arena and being able to compete here.”

The Cardinals defeated the Huskies in every event aside from the vault and posted a 49.025 in the uneven parallel bars — their best score since Feb. 17, 2019, when they also competed against Northern Illinois.

“[Balance] beam and bars are the two events that we train every day, and we train the same thing,” Saleem said. “You see that build meet after meet. To be able to see them come out today and have a solid performance overall, even with somebody in the middle having some errors, they didn't let that rattle them.”

Freshman Hannah Ruthberg was the Cardinals’ standout performer Sunday, posting a career-best and first-place finish in bars with a score of 9.850. 

“Anytime you can have your freshmen come in,” Saleem said, “starting to get settled and performing well is definitely a huge boost for the team. As [Ruthberg] has gone from week to week and gotten more confident, we're starting to see that in the way that she performs.”

Along with her record performance on bars, Ruthberg tied her best score on beam (9.700) and posted her second-highest score on the floor with a 9.800. Ruthberg contributed a combined 29.350 points for her team, the highest of the day for Ball State. 

“It's really awesome to watch her settle in, start to feel a little bit more focused and present each day and each competition,” Saleem said. “Knowing that she's out there enjoying what she's doing and not overthinking things is really what you want as a coach, and I think that you're only going to see her continue to get better and better.”

Other Ball State standouts included sophomore Taylor Waldo winning the balance beam with a score of 9.825, graduate student Bri Slonim and junior Stefanie Schweikert tying for second in vault (9.775), sophomore Grace Evans and freshman Victoria Henry tying for second in bars (9.825) and senior Claudia Goyco finishing second on the floor with a score of 9.850.

“We’re just super grateful for every opportunity we get this year and taking that opportunity with a debt of gratitude,” Saleem said. “We're going to really enjoy what we have because this is a crazy year, so we're just really being present and having a good time together.”

The Cardinals will look to continue their historic, record-breaking season Friday, Feb. 19, when they travel to Bowling Green, Ohio, for a meet with the Falcons. The Cardinals can earn their best record since 2002’s 19-12 season with a win. 

Contact Evan Weaver with comments at erweaver@bsu.edu or on Twitter @evan_weaver7.

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