Gymnastics team trying to stay focused for MAC opener

No. 16 gymnastics will step outside its comfort zone today as the team competes in Ball State for the season’s first road meet.

The Chippewas will take on the Cardinals in the Mid-American Conference opener at 7 p.m.

Head coach Jerry Reighard said away meets bring out a different mindset for the gymnast.

“Everything from the bus ride down there, to the hotel, to the meals you don’t prepare, it all plays in,” he said. “It’s definitely something we think about as coaches. The psyche, the mindset is a little different, but, for the most part, we’re going down there with veterans who have done this before.”

One of those veterans is senior and captain Emily LaFountaine.

For LaFountaine, away meets are a great opportunity for team bonding.

“It’s different going away, but I like it more because we’re unified from start to finish,” LaFountaine said. “There’s more team stuff pre-meet because we’re all in the same hotel and eating dinner together. Getting to the gym we just have to know the gymnastics doesn’t change.”

But adjusting to new equipment can still be a challenge.

Reighard said the beam and vault are identical no matter where the team goes, but bars have different tensions, and the floors have different types of springiness.

CMU leads Ball State 51-11 all-time. Last year, the Chippewas defeated the Cardinals, 193.350-190.100, in Mount Pleasant.

The team is focusing on competing at Ball State but not competing against Ball State.

“It doesn’t matter what Ball State does, it matters what CMU does with the score we get,” Reighard said. “I’m not saying we’re looking past them as an opponent, but we’re not trying to stay on, we’re trying to get 9.8s which, I think, is a different place than where Ball State is at.”

Last week, CMU had a 195.050-193.100 victory over New Hampshire. The Chippewas excelled in the uneven bars, scoring a 49.075.

On the first event, vault, Reighard said he didn’t feel the scores judges awarded reflected what he and the coaches expected.

Reighard said that was an emotional drain and he hopes this weekend the gymnasts can stay motivated through all four events.

"Numbers play games with our heads, that’s our sport,” Reighard said. “We could go to Muncie and have the best performances and what we thought were 9.8s, and the judges are really tough and don’t give us those scores. We can’t do anything about that. In one case we’re performance driven and in the other case we’re numbers driven.”