Eastern Michigan University sports like basketball and wrestling are reaching the half way mark, but the EMU women’s gymnastics team just opened their season Jan. 20 with a close loss in Kalamazoo against the Western Michigan University Broncos.
The Eagles fell to 0-1 overall and Mid-American Conference rival Broncos improved to 2-0.
In the Jan. 2 MAC preseason poll, the Eagles were picked last but lost the meet by only .5 of a point (194.975-194.475) to WMU.
“It wasn’t shocking to us because we see it every day, but I think we surprised the heck out of [WMU],” coach Steve Wilce said. “We never gave them a chance to pull away. We put pressure on them all the way through the meet.”
The EMU gymnasts recorded the highest team score since they took home the MAC Championship in 2007 and the highest season-opening team score in EMU history.
After their performance at WMU, the Eagles have earned a top 25 spot in the NCAA rankings for the week of Jan. 21 for the first time since 1997.
“The fortunate part about this sport is that it’s not all based on winning or losing,” Wilce said. “The rankings are based on scores.”
The Eagles placed second in three different events with performances from freshman Khadijah Hudson on vault and floor exercise and junior Kaylee Meyers on balancing beam.
“It was really nerve wrecking at first,” Hudson said. “But as the meet went on I started to feel less nervous. I started to realize that I had to do it for my team and not myself.”
Hudson scored 9.8 on both of the events at her EMU debut. She was only slightly behind WMU senior Lauren Bledsoe, who scored 9.85 on vault. Meyers posted the highest score for the Eagles, with 9.825 on the beam.
EMU senior Camille Cicchini said freshmen Hudson and Kimberly Ebeyer opened the season with strong performances.
“[Hudson and Ebeyer] are very reliable people and were fantastic,” Cicchini said. “You couldn’t even tell they are freshmen.”
The Broncos took third and fourth place on vault but EMU sophomore Paulina Miller and redshirt senior Amanda Fuller tied for fifth place with a score of 9.75 each. EMU senior Kristina Kurkmilis was slightly behind with 9.725.
The Eagles took fourth place on uneven bars with sophomore Anna Willette scoring 9.75 and seventh place was claimed by EMU junior Taylor Patterson with 9.7.
A 10th of a point behind Meyers on the beam was EMU senior Brittany Cassar and Miller, each scoring 9.725 to tie for fourth.
With Hudson in second, Fuller and Miller tied for seventh place on the floor with 9.75 followed by Kurkmilis in 10th place with 9.675.
“We still get that [‘Loss’] next to the score but it gives us motivation,” Kurkmilis said. “We saw where we started and we know how we can do better, but that was a great way to start.”
WMU freshman Kayla Weber took the all-around title with a score of 39.3.
“It’s not like football,” Wilce said. “We can’t control what the other team does; we can only control what we do.”
The Eagles will open their home season against the Bowling Green State University Falcons Saturday at Bowen Field House at 7 p.m.
“We are just going to go out and do what we did last weekend, just even better,” Hudson said.