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Gymnasts in their first Regionals

By Catherine Rocchio

The women's gymnastic team wrapped up their finest season ever last weekend at the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships in Trenton, NJ. The top five teams of the ECAC were invited to the meet and MIT, making their first team appearance ever, once again set a new school record, scoring 160.6 overall.

The four other teams at the meet (Trenton State, Cortland College, Ithaca College, and Salem State College) had all competed at Division III Nationals the previous year. MIT scored well against this level of competition. Trenton State College won the meet with an overall score of 178, while MIT remained in fifth place.

MIT's first rotation began on the uneven bars where all competitors performed consistently. Allison Arnold '90 had the highest score of the MIT squad, 8.65 -- her highest score for the season. She earned it with two beautiful free hip to handstands on the high bar and a solidly stuck hecht dismount.

Lisa Arel '92 had her usual strong performance on this event and scored an 8.55 for her routine that finished with a full-twisting back somersault dismount. Kortney Leabourne '92 had her best routine of the season and scored an 8.15 while Catherine Rocchio '89 had a clean set and scored a 7.4 .

The next event was the balance beam. Here the team performed better than it had all season.

The two beam stars of the afternoon were Rose Rocchio '90 and Arnold. Arnold, even after losing one half of a point on a fall at the beginning of her routine (on her backwalkover to immediate backhandspring combination), got back onto the beam with determination and proceeded to do the best routine of her three years at MIT. She worked aggressively and gracefully and her final trick -- a solidly stuck aerial front somersault -- assured her of both the crowd's appreciation and her score of 8.75 .

Rose Rocchio hit her best routine of the season and her balance was so unwavering that her score of 8.5 was no surprise. Arel managed to pull off a stunning recovery as she too had slipped -- she stayed on the beam and scored an 8.2 . Paula Aqui '89 had her best routine of the season and scored a 7.2 for strong and solid dance and tricks. Leabourne did an original tuck jump to backhandspring combination for a score of 7.3 .

The consistent performance of all the gymnasts continued in the floor exercise. Arel and Rose Rocchio wrapped up the event with scores of 8.75 and 8.2, respectively, for their advanced tumbling routines. Arnold and Catherine Rocchio showed grace and style by scoring 7.6 and 7.2, while Leabourne's energy carried her through powerful tumbling for a score of 8.0 .

MIT ended the event on the vault where they finally vindicated themselves against rival Salem State College by beating them on the event by 0.2 . Arel's handspring full-twisting vault earned a score of 8.75 and fourth place in the event. Arnold and Leabourne both earned 8.45s for their full-twisting vaults. Aqui and Charlene Grant '90 had clean vaults for scores of 7.05 and 7.75, while Rose Rocchio did a half on half off vault for a 7.95 .

Arel's score of 34.25 was a good performance, although not her best, but it was enough to earn her a place in the top ten finishers. She is resting up for the NCAA championship being held this weekend in Lacrosse, WI. Arel is currently ranked third in the nation in the NCAA Division III and has a good shot at winning the national title. She is the first MIT woman gymnast to ever qualify for this meet.

Arnold had a fantastic day and bettered her highest season score by almost a point. Her total of 33.40 was good enough to place her 11th overall. Aqui, Leabourne, and Rose Rocchio had their highest all-around scores of the season scoring 27.00, 31.90, and 31.55 respectively.

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