MUNCIE – The stands were empty, aside from a few pictures of coaches and parents who were not allowed to attend the gymnastics state finals at Ball State's Worthen Arena on Saturday due to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations against large crowds to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
But on the competition floor, gymnasts held hands while they watched their teammates' routines, and hugs and high-fives were readily given.
Bishop Dwenger coach Rosemarie Nix decided not to come to the meet in person, since she recently underwent treatment for breast cancer and the coronavirus can be especially dangerous if it infects people who already have other health concerns.
But even though the Saints coaching staff is taking the outbreak seriously, Bishop Dwenger assistant Janet Schipper admitted she had a hard time remembering not to congratulate her gymnasts with a high-five. And keeping exciting teammates from rushing to each other after a perfect dismount, well, that's a losing battle, especially when a team performed like Bishop Dwenger did by finishing in third place.
“We are so proud of them. They really were, we feel, composed; practiced well all season, have been a great group of kids and we're just really pleased with what they did today,” said Schipper, who wore a shirt with a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon entwined with a rose (in honor of Nix) printed on the front and “Fight Like a Girl” written on the back. “Of course we would have loved to have Rose here with us today, but I think the girls really adjusted well. Just got in there, focused, and did what they needed to do.”
Aside from keeping spectators out of the arena, which the ISHAA announced on Thursday, most of the gymnasts said they did not notice many differences from a typical meet.
“Yesterday I watched them wipe down the gym, like mop and vacuum, but I would assume they clean it up anyway, it's just that I've never been here to see it,” Wayne senior Erica Xayarath said.
Xayarath said she definitely wanted to continue with the competition, despite the concerns that halted just about every other sporting event in the world.
“I was really nervous that gymnastics was going to get canceled, because at first it was like, 'Eh, we're going to keep sports on,' and then it was like, 'Nope, canceled.' They canceled basketball,” said Xayarath, who qualified to compete in the all-around at the state meet as an individual.
“I was hoping and praying it wouldn't get canceled, because this is my last meet. This is it. I really didn't want to wait, if they postponed it. I don't really know what I would do with myself for the next month, since they canceled everything for the next month.”
The apparatuses, including the balance beam and the uneven bars, were not wiped down, even though they were being touched by every gymnast competing in that event. But Bishop Dwenger junior Emma Doyle said it's really not feasible to disinfect the surfaces without making it more difficult for the gymnasts to maintain their grip.
“When you wipe it down, it gets rid of all the chalk and the grit,” Doyle said. “So I'm glad they didn't, because that would've made it really difficult.”