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Women's gymnastics tops off unprecedented season with NE Nvision III championship win

By Catherine Rocchio

Last Friday night was the culmination of the best season in MIT history for the women's gymnastics team. Breaking a new team record, the MIT women took an unprecedented first place in the Division III New England Championships held at Rhode Island College. MIT won all four events, compiling an all time high of 161.3 to defeat defending champion Salem State College which ended with 157.2.

Lisa K. Arel '92 scored a 9.0 in the vault, the first event of the meet, making her the 1990 New England Vaulting Champion. Sophomore Kortney N. Leabourne's 8.6 earned her second place in the event and senior Allison S. Arnold's season high score of 8.45 earned her a fourth place. Tri-captains Rosemary A. Rocchio '90 and Rachel R. McCarthy '90, along with Gretchen L. Martin '92, rounded out the Engineers' vaulting assault, posting scores of 8.3, 8.05, and 7.75.

The uneven bars showed more of the same championship style. Arel wrapped up her second title of the night with her handstands and full-twisting dismount for an 8.8. Arnold hit her routine, swinging into two handstands on the high bar, twisting her dismount and placing third overall on the event with an 8.45. Leabourne and Rocchio contributed with scores of 7.45 each.

The event that clinched the meet for the Engineers was the balance beam. On this most difficult event, the MIT women were aggressive and unwavering in their approach to their routines. Arel, overcoming a fall on a side straddle jump, stuck her tumbling series, aerial back somersault and full-twisting dismount to take second place with an 8.45. She finished behind Salem State's Jill Russell, who won the event with an 8.55.

Rocchio was her usual solid self, sticking two backhandsprings, a difficult leap combination, and a layout dismount to take third place with an 8.2. McCarthy placed fifth overall in the meet with her cartwheel mount, backhandspring, and roundoff combinations and had her best score of the season with a 7.9. Leabourne stuck two backhandsprings in a row for her best performance and score of 7.8. Paula S. Aqui '89 also had her best routine of the season, earning a 7.15 for her solid dance.

The meet concluded on the floor, where Arel captured her third win of the night with a 9.0. Rocchio secured fifth place with her season's best score of 8.35, and McCarthy tumbled high into sixth place with score of 8.25. Arnold's determined tumbling earned her a 7.8, while Leabourne and Martin posted scores of 7.7 and 7.0, respectively.

Arel, the 1989 defending New England Champion, easily claimed the title again with an overall score of 35.25. Rocchio had her season's best all-around with a 32.3, fourth overall in New England, and Leabourne finished seventh with a 31.55.

The MIT women have qualified for the Eastern Championships to be held at Ithaca College, where they will again face Salem State as well as defending ECAC Champion Trenton State College.

(Catherine Rocchio '89 is an assistant coach of the women's gymnastics team.)