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Two gymnasts go to nationals

By Catherine Rocchio

Two athletes represented MIT this past weekend at the 1991 National Collegiate Gymnastic Championships March 8 and 9 at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN.

Kortney Leabourne '92 competed at the national level for the first time, and Lisa Arel '92 returned for her third appearance at the national championships. Both gymnasts qualified for the meet by having all-around scores that averaged to be in the highest eight all-around scores in the nation.

Other individual qualifiers represented Ursinus College, University of Wisconsin, Superior, and University of Wisconsin, Eau Clair.

In addition to the individual competitors, the top eight teams in the nation also qualify for

this meet. This year's teams were from Ithaca College, Cortland State College, Brockport State College, Gustavus Adolphus College, Hamline College, University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, and University of Wisconsin, River Falls.

Both MIT gymnasts performed excellently at this high level

of gymnastics competition. Leabourne began the meet on vault where she received an 8.4 for a clean handspring full-twist.

Leabourne then continued on to the uneven parallel bars and balance beam events where she successfully stuck both routines cleanly to earn scores of 8.0 and 7.9. Leabourne finished the meet with the floor exercise where she performed her best routine of her season, including difficult dance and tumbling skills, and earned an 8.4. Leabourne's all-around score of 32.7 represents a personal-best score of her MIT gymnastics career.

Arel began the meet with the floor exercise where she performed a routine that included two full-twisting layouts and difficult dance elements with high amplitude for a score of 9.15, which also qualified her for the floor exercise finals.

Arel's second event was vaulting, where her handspring full-twist -- landed almost perfectly -- scored a 9.0, just .05 below the cutoff score of 9.05 to qualify for the vaulting finals. The uneven bars event began beautifully for Arel, whose giant swings to a handstand were both clean and powerful, but she ran into trouble just before her full-twisting layout flyaway dismount by casting too far on a handstand.

This fall caused 0.5 to be deducted from Arel's score and she received only an 8.15, a disappointment for Arel, who was the 1990 National Uneven Bars Bronze Medalist.

Arel's final event was the balance beam, where a few wobbles on her back somi and switch-leg-leap combination kept her score down to an 8.5. Arel's final all-around score of 34.8 left her in 13th place overall in the nation.

Arel's performance the next day in the floor exercise finals was nothing less than magnificent. She danced, tumbled, and energized her way into a score

of 9.3, the highest score of her

MIT gymnastics career and a new school record. This performance earned her All-American Honors and placed her 4th overall on the event.

The meet was won overall by Amanda Murdock from Gustavus Adolphus College with an all-around score of 37.0. Gustavus Adolphus College became the 1991 National Gymnastic Championship team with a score of 145.55 -- a 0.2 margin over the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh team which scored 145.35.

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