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Four year drought ends for gymnasts at Vermont

By Eric M. Reifschneider

The MIT men's gymnastics team pulled out an exciting 197.05-195.75 victory over Vermont Saturday at Burlington, VT. The Engineers took an early lead and then held off a determined comeback attempt by the Catamounts. With its first win at Vermont in four years, MIT ended the regular season at 4-2.

In each of the last two years, MIT defeated Vermont early in the season at Cambridge, but then lost close meets at Vermont a few weeks later. Last year, the final margin of Vermont's victory was a scant 1.1 points.

On Jan. 28 at DuPont Gymnasium, MIT beat Vermont 200.4-191.6. In this year's rematch, the Engineers took the early lead. Joe Fugaro '91 got MIT off to a good start on the floor by nailing a handspring to a front flip and pressing from a split to a handstand to score 7.2. Reginald Abel '92 followed with a 7.85 for a routine including five front flips, two back flips, and a straightbody press to a handstand.

The season-high scores by Fugaro and Abel set the stage for MIT's tri-captains Eric Reifschneider '89, Alan Nash '89, and Mark Malonson '89. Reifschneider did a front flip to a front flip (front-front) and a half-twisting back flip to score 7.95. Nash did a back-back, a front-front, and a handstand snap-down to a split for an 8.05. Malonson did a back-back-front, a front-front, a back-front, and a planche press to a handstand to score 8.5.

Vermont received scores of 8.05 from Kent Donahue, 7.85 from Rob Shire, and 7.8 from Frank Zavitkowsky. But the Catamounts missed Al Acostys, who was paralyzed by a serious neck injury in Vermont's meet last week's with Dartmouth. MIT's team score of 39.55, the team's highest in four years for the floor exercise, gave the Engineers a lead of 3.2 points after the first event.

Both teams struggled on the pommel horse, but MIT expanded its lead to 4.05 points as Reifschneider and Nash managed the highest scores on this event, 6.25 and 6.15, respectively.

Vermont began to cut into MIT's lead on the rings. Reifschneider did a shoot to a handstand and held a back lever for a 7.0, and Malonson did two backuprises to handstands and held an iron cross for a 7.2. The Engineers had trouble landing their dismounts, though; Zavitkowsky's 7.55 cut MIT's lead to 3.55 points halfway through the meet.

Vermont narrowed the margin to 2.7 points on the vault. The Engineers played it safe by doing handsprings, while the Catamounts did more difficult vaults like a full-twisting handspring and a Tsukahara.

MIT started well on the parallel bars. Antonio Hernandez '91 scored 6.05 and Tim Holt '90 scored 6.1, season highs for each. But when Vermont's first two competitors, Shire and Brian Crumbaker, scored 6.25 and 6.65, the crowd anticipated a Vermont comeback.

MIT's tri-captains quickly regained the momentum for the Engineers. Reifschneider did consecutive back stutzes and a full-twisting back flip dismount for a 7.85. Malonson nailed a stutz to a handstand for a 7.7, and Nash nailed a full-twisting stutz for a 7.95. Despite Zavitkowsky's 8.05, MIT gained half a point on the parallel bars.

MIT led by 3.2 points as the teams prepared for the final event, high bar, where a single slip can spell disaster. Mark Abinante '89 gave the Engineers a solid score of 5.65 by doing two blind changes and a flyaway dismount. Malonson followed by landing an over-the-bar double back flip dismount for a 5.0. Nash, however, lost his grip and flew off the bar during his routine. Fortunately, he wasn't hurt; he remounted the bar and did a toe-on, front flip dismount to score 5.05.

Just as a year ago, the meet came down to the last two routines. Reifschneider, MIT's last competitor, did a clean routine including a cross change and a blind change and stuck a flyaway dismount. His score of 6.35 meant that Zavitkowsky, Vermont's last competitor, would have to score 8.7 to win the meet for Vermont. When Zavitkowsky scored 7.35, the Engineers had held off Vermont's final rally to win by 1.3 points.

Zavitkowsky won the all-around competition with a score of 44.3. Reifschneider was second with 43.2, Malonson third with 42.0, and Nash fourth with 41.35.

MIT's next meet is the New England Championships Sunday at Springfield College. Another team score above 190 should ensure that the Engineers qualify for the Division II-III National Championships to be held April 8 at San Luis Obispo, CA.

(Editor's note: Eric M. Reifschneider is a tri-captain of the men's gymnastics team.)