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Women gymnasts Make a Record

By Catherine Rocchio
Team Coach

The MIT women's gymnastics team chalked up its best performance ever last weekend at the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Championships, held at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania. The Engineers set a new team score record, earning 161.40 overall -- a score that earned them fourth place, a mere 0.05 points behind the State University of New York at Brockport team, which finished third.

The fourth place finish for the Engineers still represents the best finish ever by an MIT team at this event. The State University of New York at Cortland won the meet with a 177.6, while Ithaca College took second with 174.45. SUNY Brockport squeaked into third with a 161.45 over MIT's 161.4 while Ursinus and Rhode Island College were fifth and sixth with scores of 156.05 and 148.2.

MIT began the meet on the floor exercise, where scores were lower than usual because this was the first event of the afternoon. Despite the conservative judging, MIT achieved scores of 6.7, 7.25, and 7.35 for Aoy Tomita '93, Stephanie DeWeese '95, and Karen Oda '93. Kortney Leabourne '92 stepped up the pace as she earned an 8.15 for her excellent tumbling, while Julie Lyren '93 and Lisa Arel '92 gathered winning momentum for the team as they earned an 8.9 and 9.0 for their outstanding exercises.

Undaunted by the low floor scores, MIT scored their best performances of the season on the next event, the vault. Gwen Gray '93, competing for the first time ever this season, scored a 7.35 on her handspring vault while Gretchen Martin '92 and Oda both earned 7.75 for their handspring vaults. Leabourne had one of her best vaults of the season and earned an 8.4 for her handspring full-twist. Lyren and Arel finished with their twisting vaults, earning respective scores of 8.65 and 8.55.

By the time the Engineers approached the balance beam, the team knew exactly what scores were needed to stay on top of Ursinus College and to come close to Brockport. Martin and Oda were steady for the Engineers despite a couple of falls and still turned in good routines for scores of 6.4 and 7.2. Beth Chen '94 earned 7.45 despite falling twice and kept MIT in the race for third.

Leabourne missed her round-off but solidly landed everything else for an 8.25 while Lyren stuck her full routine and had her best score ever on this event of 9.05.

The pressure was on Arel, the last gymnast to compete. All eyes were on Arel as she too had trouble with her round-off and fell. She recovered undaunted and completed an excellent routine, earning a 9.1, despite the .5 deduction taken for a fall.

Overall, Oda and Lyren had their season's best all-around scores of 29.8 and 35.05 while Leabourne was consistent with 32.45. Arel took fourth place overall in the meet with her combined total of 35.25.

Though the team barely missed third place, three MIT women qualified for the national championships. Arel, Lyren, and Leabourne will all be representing MIT as all-around competitors next weekend at the Division III National Championships, hosted by SUNY Cortland.