Of all the meets on Ball State’s 2013-14 women’s gymnastics schedule, two are of special interest to Cardinals freshman Sarah Ebeyer.
On March 14, the Whiteland Community High School graduate helps Ball State welcome Mid-American Conference opponent Eastern Michigan to town. Ball State returns the favor eight days later, driving the 200-plus miles to Eastern Michigan for the annual MAC Championships.
For an athlete to whom balance is vital to success, Ebeyer’s intense focus promises to be tested like never before.
Her best friend can make the same claim.
Among Ebeyer’s competitors at both venues will be the green-uniformed young lady she used to share a bedroom with. That was until Kimberly Ebeyer, eldest of Dave and Jennifer Ebeyer’s four children, requested space of her own as a 12th birthday present.
Kimberly, 20, is a sophomore gymnast for Eastern Michigan.
“It’s definitely going to be different because we’ve never really competed on different teams,” Sarah said. “It’s just one of those things where we wish the best for each other because we’re very supportive of one another.”
The Ebeyer sisters are an interesting study of contrasts and similarities.
Kimberly, at 5-foot-3, is the taller of the two by three inches, her straight blond hair not at all similar to Sarah’s brunette curls. Kimberly inherited Dave’s hyperactivity and gift of chatter; Sarah tends to be more laid-back and, like her mother, is painfully organized.
But get Kimberly and Sarah in the same room, or worse, the same car, and all bets are off.
During seasons of warmer weather it’s not uncommon to see the Ebeyers motoring around in the family’s orange convertible. The automobile’s top is down, the singing voices inside are raised, and some form of seated dancing has commenced.
“We have horrible singing voices, so we end up turning up the volume. That way you still think that you sound good,” Sarah said and laughed. “We’re just a close family altogether. We love hanging out together and having fun.”
This includes Dave, Jennifer and the girls’ two younger brothers, Matthias, 15, and Isaac, 13.
“We’ve just always been close,” Kimberly said of Sarah. “When we were in high school we would drive to school together, go to cheerleading practice together and then drive to gymnastics practices together. And it’s not a forced closeness. We just get along.”
Gymnastics only strengthened the bond.
Kimberly’s start in the sport came at Wright’s Gymnastics Academy in Greenwood at age 5. The sisters were a package deal at the outset and continued to be as they grew older, meaning Sarah’s initial studied somersault occurred when she was 3.
The past 15 years have produced trophies, medals, ribbons and memories for both girls. And not necessarily in that order.
Not surprisingly, Kimberly departing for Eastern Michigan to start her freshman year in the summer of 2012 turned out to be extremely difficult for the sisters.
“Believe it or not, they have always been the best of friends,” said Dave, a 1980 Whiteland Community High School graduate. “I knew when Kimberly went away for college, she was enjoying the experience but was still really homesick for her sister.”
Kimberly’s first season of college gymnastics in 2013 saw her compete in five events. Her season-best scores came almost a year ago to the day against Western Michigan with a 9.70 on the vault and a 9.675 on her specialty, the balance beam. She produced a 9.625 later in the season on the beam against Central Michigan.
Eastern Michigan’s 2014 season gets under way Friday at Kent State for an event scheduled to include George Washington and Rutgers.
Sarah Ebeyer sampled her first collegiate competition on Jan. 4 as Ball State won at Illinois State. Ebeyer tied for second in the vault with a score of 9.70, tied for third on the balance beam (9.575) and placed fourth in floor exercise (9.675).
Her performance earned the younger sister MAC Gymnast of the Week honors. Last weekend the Cardinals took fourth at the University of Kentucky behind the host Wildcats, Penn State and West Virginia.
“They absolutely are different. Sarah is more street savvy, and I think Kimberly is more naive to the world,” Dave said. “It applies in gymnastics, too. Kimberly is more elegant, where Sarah is more of a power gymnast.”
Different, but the same. Alike, but then ... not so much. Both sisters represent their family and their respective university to the absolute best of their abilities.
Kimberly laughs telling the story of how as a 5- and 6-year-old her parents thought she might be interested in playing soccer.
“I’ve always had a lot of energy, but soccer didn’t click,” she said. “I would be on the field picking dandelions. It just didn’t work out.”
Gymnastics did. And for her sister as well. The Ebeyer sisters have devoted a good portion of their young lives to the sport, even though their high school has never offered it as a varsity sport. They are as passionate about it as they’ve ever been.
“I just think gymnastics is a beautiful sport. There’s an art to it. Just being on this team and around these girls is incredible,” Sarah said. “I’m actually excited for the home meet (against Eastern Michigan) because you have so many of the students there to support you.”
This won’t make the competitions scheduled for March 14 and March 22 easier on the rest of the family.
“As far as when they compete against each other, yes, it’s going to be difficult,” Dave said. “But it is what it is. You hope both Kimberly and Sarah do their best and help their teams.”