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MIT gymnasts open season strongly - Three veterans lead team to victory over Rhode Island

By Allison Arnoldx5-9854

In perhaps its finest start ever, the MIT women's gymnastics team soundly defeated Rhode Island College 159.25 to 142.55 on Sunday to begin its 1991-92 season.

MIT began the meet on vault, where Karen Oda '93 and Gretchen Martin '92 performed solid handsprings to score 7.6 and 7.65, respectively. Co-captains Kortney Leabourne '92 and Lisa Arel '92 completed powerful full-twisting handspring vaults to score 8.25 and 8.65, respectively, and Julie Lyren '93 sailed a half-on, full-off vault to score 8.6. After the first rotation, MIT led RIC 40.75 to 38.15.

MIT continued to increase its lead on the uneven parallel bars. Oda led the way for MIT by executing a nice jump half-turn mount over the low bar and consecutive straddle cuts to score a 7.6, while Martin followed with an impressive straddle jump mount over the low bar to score a 6.5. Lyren swung a clean routine featuring a straddle cut to straddle back over the low bar, but a low landing on her difficult Comaneci dismount (a sole circle half turn to back somi off the high bar) kept her score at an 8.45. Arel, the only gymnast in the meet to perform a cast handstand into a giant swing, followed Lyren with a 7.85. Finally, Leabourne led all competitors on bars with an 8.65 routine highlighted by a peach to straddle cut mount, a straddle back over the low bar, and a full-twisting underswing dismount. After two events, MIT led RIC 79.8 to 74.0.

The balance beam is typically the most nerve-racking event in women's gymnastics, but the MIT team performed with confidence. In her MIT gymnastics debut, Beth Chen '94 competed like a veteran, demonstrating a well-executed switch split leap, a straddle jump and a pike jump for a 6.0. Oda also performed well, doing a beautiful split scale, consecutive cat leap half turns and an impressive back handspring for a 6.4. Martin performed a solid jump half-turn mount and a very nice double stag leap, cat leap half-turn combination to increase MIT's lead, and Leabourne followed with an aggressive routine featuring a roundoff and a super-high straddle jump for an 8.25. Lyren '93 earned the respect of the judges and the RIC team with a polished 8.8 routine featuring two back handsprings and a difficult straddle jump with a quarter turn. Finally, Arel did her characteristic no-fall set featuring a back somi on the beam, a switch split leap to pike jump combination and a gainer back somersault dismount for an event high score of 8.9. With just one rotation to go, MIT led RIC 118.15 to 107.35.

On the floor exercise, Kim Cornwell '94 earned a 6.75 and excited the crowd with her infectious smile and jazzy choreography. Sandra Tan '92 followed with a well-done routine that featured a front somi and a double turn, and Oda tumbled a high layout back somersault to score a 7.35 and a 28.95 all-around. MIT's last three competitors, Leabourne, Lyren and Arel, closed the meet by winning the floor exercise event and sweeping the all-around competition. Leabourne performed two amazing half-twisting straddle jumps and two layout back somersaults to score an 8.5 on floor and a 33.65 all-around. Lyren wowed the crowd with beautiful dance and tumbled a whip back to a tuck back somersault to earn a 9.15 on floor and the meet-high 35.00 all-around. Finally, Arel demonstrated why she was a finalist in the floor exercise at the NCAA Division III National Championships last year scoring a 9.35 on floor and a 34.75 all-around.

The MIT women's gymnastics team has two more home meets this season: Jan. 14 vs. Springfield College, and Feb. 16 vs. Southern Connecticut. If this first meet is any indication of the team's ability, MIT Beaver fans should definitely come and watch as MIT gymnasts attempt to qualify for the ECAC and National Championships.

Allison Arnold G is assistant coach of the women's gymnastics team.