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Arel, Leabourne Lad Record-Setting Gymnasts

By Catherine Rocchio '89
Team Coach

The MIT women's gymnastics team has been busy recently, with four dual meets over the last three weeks. Several team members, including co-captains Lisa Arel '92 and Kortney Leabourne '92 and Julie Lyren '93, have given the best performances of their careers.

MIT traveled to Division I competitors Brown University on Jan. 29 to compete in a tri-meet against Brown and frequent Division III rival team Rhode Island College. Brown won the meet with a team total of 171.3, and MIT took second place with a 152.90, beating Rhode Island College's total of 129.95.

The tri-meet at Brown University was a perfect showcase for the individual talent on the MIT team. MIT began the competition on the uneven bars, where all five gymnasts had strong routines. Gretchen Martin '92 scored a 6.6 with a full routine that included a free-straddle over mount directly connected into a cut-catch and free straddle-back over the low bar, while junior Karen Oda's perfectly executed half-twisting mount airborne over the low bar merited a 6.3. Lyren had a few problems with a handstand/half-twist on the high bar, but landed a half-twisting somersaulted dismount for a 7.75. Leabourne and Arel finished the event with consistent routines, including a backward somersault from high bar to low bar for Leabourne and a full-twisting somersault dismount for Arel. The two earned scores of 7.85 and 8.40, giving Arel the third-place spot for the event.

Vaulting was consistent as usual with Sandra Tan '92, Martin, and Oda all completing front-handspring vaults for respective scores of 6.3, 7.05, and 7.05. Arel and Lyren tied for third place on the vaulting event.

The Beavers gave one of their strongest team performances on the floor event. Personality and style earned Kim Cornwell '94 a 6.10 for jazzy dance and consistent tumbling, while Oda gained a 7.75 for her best routine of the season, including a nice first tumbling run. Leabourne and Lyren also scored high with inventive routines. Arel earned an 8.90, once again giving her a third-place finish.

MIT ended the evening with an unsteady performance on the balance beam. Beth Chen '94 had a rough time with her routine, earning a 6.0. Leabourne suffered a few falls on difficult tricks but still maintained a poised and controlled attitude, earning a 7.05.

Arel was the star of the MIT beam team, performing her routine with style, power, and confidence. Her round-off, standing back tuck, and two incredibly flexible straddle jumps combined to earn a score of 9.0, a new record for MIT on the event, a personal best score for Arel, and the second-highest score on the event for the evening.

Leabourne's and Lyren's all-around scores of 31.15 and 32.8 earned them fourth and fifth places overall in the meet, while Arel's 34.8 put her second.

Ithaca tops high team score

On Feb. 1, the team traveled to Ithaca, N.Y. to compete against Ithaca College, one of Division III's strongest gymnastics teams. MIT had their highest team score since December, but still lost to Ithaca, 173.75 to 156.05.

MIT began its Ithaca meet with solid performances in the vault. Tan, Martin, and Oda all improved their vaults from the last meet and earned scores of 6.6, 7.4, and 7.55, while Leabourne had one of her best vaulting days of the year and earned an 8.2. Lyren and Arel finished with scores of 8.3 and 8.65, andArel took second place overall on the event.

Uneven bars proved a sticky spot for MIT at Ithaca, where an unusually bouncy set of bars gave the women some trouble. Leabourne lost her grip during her straddle-back but came through with a score of 7.55. Lyren scored 7.9 despite problems with a difficult handstand half-twist on the high bar. Arel, however, had her best bar routine of the season and earned an 8.75, taking the top honors of the afternoon.

MIT ended the meet with a superb performance on the floor exercise. Tan and Aoy Tomita '93 gave graceful and dramatic dance routines that led up perfectly to Oda's strong tumbling runs and leaps, which earned her a 7.1.

Leabourne gave a stellar performance on floor exercise, successfully completing aerial somersaults in all three tumbling passes for score of 8.9. Arel's 9.4 was her second record-breaking performance of the week -- a new MIT record, a personal best, and a perfect ending to a great meet for the MIT women's team.

Leabourne's and Lyren's all-around scores of 32.9 and 34.0 should be good enough to qualify them into the Division III National Competition while Arel's 35.25 was MIT's highest, giving her second place overall in the meet.

On Feb. 8, the MIT women traveled to compete against Bridgeport University in Connecticut, a Division II power that gave MIT the hardest competition they saw all season. Bridgeport won the contest, scoring 182.00 to MIT's 154.15. Though the MIT women did not win the overall titles in each of the meets, individual members scored well.

Arel continued her string of amazing performances at Bridgeport, breaking the MIT balance beam record she had set just a week before with a score of 9.15. Chen and Lyren also turned in impressive performances on the balance beam, earning a 7.55 and an 8.9, respectively.

Arel also shone on the high bars with a giant swing leading into her twisting dismount for a score of 8.9. Lyren turned in a good routine, including a high-flying somersaulting dismount, for a score of 7.85.

First-time competitor Stephanie DeWeese '95 earned a very solid score of 7.1 for her graceful endeavor on the floor exercise. Oda and Leabourne followed with scores of 7.55 and 8.1, and Lyren and Arel finished off the afternoon with scores of 9.05 and 9.15 for two difficult routines.

Lyren had one of her highest totals this season with a 34.2, while Leabourne was consistent with her 30.2. But it was Arel who broke MIT's all-around record that afternoon with a 35.6 overall, leaving no doubt as to the competitiveness and skill of the MIT gymnasts.