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Women's gym goes to championships

By Catherine Rocchio

The MIT women's gymnastics team rounded out its victorious season by sending competitors to two Division III Championship meets over the past weekends.

MIT qualified as a team for the ECAC Championships, held at Ithaca College, for the second year in a row. Ithaca won the meet, with Trenton State College taking second place. MIT wound up in fourth place, finishing a place higher than in the previous year's championships, and again triumphing over rival Salem State College.

Lisa Arel '92 also made her second appearance at the Division III National Championships held at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania.

ECAC's began for MIT on the uneven bars. Arel rounded out a season of "no fall" bar routines with a score of 8.5. Tri-captain Rose Rocchio '90 had a solid routine for a 7.2, and Paula Aqui '89 had the best routine of her career, posting a 6.95.

At the balance beam, Arel refused to fall, fighting to keep her balance after a foot slipped off on the landing of a straddle jump. She landed her full-twisting dismount with another "no-falls" routine to her credit and a score of 8.6.

Tri-captain Allison Arnold '90 performed confidently in her final career beam performance, scoring a 7.25. This event again brought in the best routine of Aqui's career. Her strong dance and high leaps earned a 7.2. Tri-captain Rachel McCarthy '90 also aggressively finished the last beam routine of her career, sticking a cartwheel mount, a back handspring, and a gainer back somersault dismount for a 7.2. Kortney Leabourne '92 executed two backhandsprings in a row and stuck a beautiful round-off for a score of 7.15. Rocchio performed her routines aggressively for a 6.9.

MIT women have always showed off their grace in dance and strength in tumbling in the floor exercise. Arel was the ever-present anchor for the team, turning in another near perfect routine for an 8.7.

The last career performances of Rocchio, McCarthy, Arnold, and Aqui were also strong. McCarthy's two full-twisting layout somersaults and Rocchio's Arabian half twisting somersault ended some of the finest tumbling that MIT gymnastics has seen and earned them scores of 8.0 and 7.8, respectively. Arnold's strong tumbling with somersaults in all three tumbling passes and Aqui's snappy dance earned them respective scores of 7.6 and 6.65.

There could have been no better ending to the meet than the performance of the MIT women on vault. Arel's handspring full-twist again showed championship form, earning an 8.85. Arnold surprised herself with her amplitude and powerful full-twisting performance for her season's high score of 8.65. Leabourne scored highly with an 8.6 for a handspring full-twist. Rocchio had her season's best score of 8.5 for a half-on half-off vault. McCarthy stuck her handspring for an 8.15, and Aqui had her best vault ever with a score of 7.8.

Arel placed fourth overall in the meet with a 34.6, while Arnold's 30.45 and Rocchio's and Leabourne's 29.4's helped add to MIT's final team score of 155.45.

The Division III National Championships put Arel's East Coast dominance to the test. Scoring an 8.8 on the bars and a 9.0 on the floor exercise in the preliminaries qualified her for the finals in both events. Her scores in the vault and balance beam events were 8.95 and 7.55, respectively. If not for some troubles with some of the dance elements in her beam routine, which caused two falls and a one point deduction from her score, these scores would have qualified her as an all-around competitor in the finals.

Arel took eighth place on the floor exercise with a score of 8.55 and third place on the uneven bars with an 8.95. She received All-American honors for the second year in a row on the uneven bars.

(Catherine Rocchio G is an assistant coach of the women's gymnastics team.)