The only perfect vault score in the history of Ball State University gymnastics was almost 27 years ago. Sarah Mikrut received a 10.000 in vault at Kent State University in 1997, and until Friday, no one had since.
Ball State competed in the Tennessee Collegiate Classic against Kent State, Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater at the Farm Bureau Expo Center in Lebanon, Tennessee.
This is the place Ball State made history.
Senior Suki Pfister became the second person in program history to receive a 10.000 in vault. Later in the night, sophomore Zoe Middleton was given a 10.000 in bars, becoming the first person in program history to get a perfect score on bars. Graduate student Megan Teeter followed shortly after with the third perfect score of the night and the second in program history for bars.
The Cardinals ended the meet in first place with a program record team team score of 198.025. This is 3 points higher than their previous meet, which had a final score of 195.650. It’s also .300 higher than Kent State, who placed second at the meet. Southeast Missouri followed with a 197.050, and Wisconsin-Whitewater finished last, earning a total score of 194.450.
“We were behind going into the last event there by a couple of tenths, and it was just a heck of a meet,” Ball State head coach Joanna Saleem said. “These young women, they just fought and went out and did some amazing gymnastics tonight.”
Middleton had the highest all-around score of any gymnast at the competition. The Smyrna, Delaware, native ended the meet with a total score of 39.750 points, earning a high 9.950 in vault and a 9.925 on floor.
Ball State didn’t have the only perfect scores of the night. Southeast Missouri junior Lindsay Ockler scored a 10.000 in bars, and Kent State graduate student Karlie Franz received the highest score in floor. Still, the Cardinals were the only team to have multiple gymnasts with a flawless performance.
“Since I've been at Ball State in the last 11 years, we haven't had a 10.000,” Saleem said. “To be able to watch some of your athletes get those 10s is something that's just really special.”
Each of the team’s event totals were high, with Ball State’s total score for bars – 49.775 – being the highest-scoring event of the night. Ball State tied with Kent State for the highest beam score: 49.250.
The Cardinals have been focusing on landings as well as how not to get distracted and focus on competing freely. Saleem is proud of the girls and said the whole team was “in sync” and worked well together.
Saleem wants the gymnasts to focus on their performances rather than scores, controlling what they can. She knows the 10.000 performances seen Friday are repeatable, and she wants these scores to be a “confidence builder” and allow the team to gain momentum. Ultimately though, Saleem wants the Cardinals to have fun and enjoy every moment.
This is something the gymnastics team is planning to do for their first competitive home meet on Monday, Jan. 22. The gymnasts will compete against Bowling Green State University at 7 p.m. in Worthen Arena.
“There's something about competing in front of your own fans and your own arena,” Saleem said.
To celebrate, the first home meet will be Squishmallow night. A Squishmallow is a popular, squishy plush toy with animal-like features.
The gymnasts will be handing out stuffed animals, and there will be a raffle for a giant Squishmallow, which will be drawn at the end of the meet. Saleem said most of the girls will be bringing their own Squishmallows, and fans are encouraged to bring theirs as well.
If any Ball State gymnasts receive a 9.975 or higher, Squishmallows will be thrown into the crowd.