Ball State gymnastics maintains high scores despite second loss of the season

Ball State Gymnastics team congratulates their teammate, first-year Lindsay Girard on her vault routine. Girard scored a 9.700 on her routine at Worthen Arena in Muncie, IN on January 22, 2024. Eve Green DN
Ball State Gymnastics team congratulates their teammate, first-year Lindsay Girard on her vault routine. Girard scored a 9.700 on her routine at Worthen Arena in Muncie, IN on January 22, 2024. Eve Green DN

The Ball State University Gymnastics team had their second loss of the season Saturday against Western Michigan in University Arena. 

Despite Ball State gymnasts having the highest scores in three out of four events, it was not enough to beat the fellow Mid-American Conference (MAC) school in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The two teams fought back and forth for the win, but ultimately, the Broncos prevailed by .075 points. The Cardinals lost 195.950-196.025. 

This win brought the Broncos to 10-1, making them the highest-standing MAC team in the conference. Although Ball State is No. 21 in the United States, Western Michigan sits at No. 36. 

Head coach Joanna Saleem said it was a challenging meet, but she is proud of her team for being competitive all the way through.

“With every MAC meet, you gotta be on [your A-game], and we started off a little weaker than we typically do,” she said. 

The Cardinals started off with an overall score of 48.550 points on bars, but their comprehensive scores increased with each event. Vault totaled up to 49.075 points, and floor grew to 49.175 points. Beam resulted in a total of 49.150 points, just .015 points under their previous score, but it was still a high outcome for it being their lowest-ranked event. 

In the past meets against Central Michigan University and Kent State University, the Cardinals didn’t get above a 48.825 overall score in beam. 

“For us to be able to finish strong on beam, I know that they have the ability to do that,” Saleem said. “Hopefully that just continues to build confidence as we head into the last half of the season.”

Although the Cardinals lost, Saleem said there were great moments throughout the evening.  

Sophomore Zoe Middleton was one standout at the meet. The gymnast earned the highest overall all-around score: 39.375 points. Middleton had the highest scores on beam (9.900), tying with senior Hannah Ruthberg, and bars (9.825), tying with freshman Ashley Szymanski.   

Middleton looked relaxed during her final routine on beam. The Delaware native performed a strong press handstand and a solid back handspring layout stepout. She executed a side aerial confidently, ending her routine with a front tuck full dismount off the beam.  

Saleem said she loved Middleton’s performances and her consistency throughout the competition. 

“She just did a really good job of staying calm and staying in her own little bubble of performance and then jumping out and supporting her teammates,” she said. 

Being able to stay in their bubble is something Saleem said was a challenge at the meet. The large crowd brought a lot of energy in support of the Broncos, creating a loud, energetic environment. While the gymnasts were able to distract themselves from this energy and improve as they went on, Saleem said she’d like to see the girls do that from the very first routine. 

Saleem said that while the team didn’t perform badly on bars, the Cardinals are better than their performance today and should’ve started stronger. Bars are Ball State’s highest ranked event, standing at No. 13 in the nation.

She also said home-court advantage was a factor in their loss. She said having that home crowd and being able to compete on their own equipment can make a difference.

“For us, we’re got to be able to take that and use it or … move on and not linger on it because the meet is behind us now,” Saleem said. 

Ultimately, she said the gymnasts understand that this is a journey. What is most important to Saleem is that the Cardinals are setting goals for themselves every day and chasing after them while still enjoying the process. She has seen them grow in the way they carry themselves through the season, so she is excited to see them “grow from this and move on.” 

Saleem is planning to get back in the gym, so the gymnasts can continue working on performing strong gymnastics from their first routine to their last. 

The Cardinals (10-2) will end their back-to-back run with MAC teams when they face Atlantic 10 Conference school George Washington University at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23 in Washington D.C.


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