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Women gymnasts set new team record

By Catherine Rocchio

The MIT women's gymnastics team met Salem State College, the defending New England and Division III Eastern Champions, last Saturday in the most challenging meet so far this competitive season. Although MIT lost the meet to Salem State's impressive team score of 162.4, the Engineers took home their second highest score of the season, 151.0 points, and boasted the highest individual scorer of the day, Lisa Arel '92, who scored 34.9 .

Wednesday night, the team returned home to Dupont Gymnasium and won their meet against Westfield State College with a new MIT record team score of 154.3 to Westfield's 124.7 .

MIT held their own against Salem State in the meet's opening event, the vaulting exercise, and only trailed by 0.35 points at the completion of the event. Arel and Kortney Leabourne '92 stuck powerful vaults that took first and third place with scores of 8.7 and 8.6 . Allison Arnold '90 and Rose Rocchio '90 performed beautiful full-twisting vaults that scored 8.3 and 8.4, while Paula Aqui '89 and Charlene Grant '90 executed impressive handspring vaults and received 7.5's each.

The two uneven bar stars of the afternoon for MIT were Arel and Arnold, who is defending Eastern Champion in the event -- with respective scores of 8.6 and 8.15 . Arel won the event while Arnold came in third. Despite this, and a solid performance by Leabourne (7.05), MIT fell to two points behind by the conclusion of the event.

Balance beam was yet another victory for Arel as she completed another "no falls" routine that included two back handsprings in a row and a full-twisting dismount for a score of 8.8 and another first place. Rocchio also had a consistent routine with solid difficulty and dance that scored a 7.35 .

MIT finished up the meet with winning style on the floor exercise where Aqui and Arnold showed grace and style, Leabourne and Rocchio showed powerful tumbling, and Arel, with her score of 8.8, showed the audience how to beat the defending New England all-around champion, Jill Russell from Salem State. Arel edged Russell out by 0.10 points and became the first New England gymnast to defeat Russell in two years with an all-around score of 34.90 . Arnold's score on her floor exercise of 7.3 brought her all-around total to 30.6 and earned her third place overall in the meet.

The Engineers returned home on Wednesday, and proceeded on to the best meet of their season. Arel took the first place honors on vault, beam, and floor with scores of 8.8, 8.65, and 8.75 -- she also took the all-around title with her combined score of 34.3 .

Arnold also had a fantastic night and showed her championship form on the uneven bars, winning the event with a score of 8.3 . She also had a strong vaulting score of 8.15 and her best beam routine of the season with an impressive flight series of a back walkover to a back handspring and a front somersault in the air. Her scores of 7.75 on the beam and 7.4 on the floor exercise earned her a season high all-around score of 31.60 and second place overall in the meet.

Leabourne had a beautiful handspring full-twisting vault that took second place on the event with an 8.45 and also turned in a no falls beam routine and a strong floor and uneven bars routine. Her overall score of 30.35 was her best of the season and earned her fourth overall in the meet.

Rocchio also had her best meet thus far in the season. A beautifully strong and solid beam routine with two handsprings and a round-off earned her second place on the event with a score of 8.0 . Rocchio also took second place on the floor exercise with a score of 8.05 .

MIT's next home meet is on Feb. 15 at 7 pm in Dupont Gymnasium where they will again meet Salem State.

(Editor's note: Catherine Rocchio '89 is a co-captain of the women's gymnastics team.)