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Gymnasts Take 6th at ECAC

By Catherine Rocchio

The women's gymnastics team finished its competitive season last weekend to the applause of the "standing room only" crowd in Du Pont Gymnasium as MIT hosted to the 1994 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Division III Gymnastics Championships. Teams from MIT, SUNY Brockport, SUNY Cortland, Ithaca College, Rhode Island College, and Ursinus College treated the enthusiastic spectators to an afternoon of spectacular gymnastics.

Engineer's fans were especially delighted when MIT's own Sheila Rocchio '97 captured the ECAC Championship title on the balance beam with an outstanding performance that set a new MIT record of 9.3. Rocchio also earned third place on the floor exercise with her score of 9.225 as well as 5th place overall with her all-around total of 34.875. Tasi Chiarenza '97 captured fourth place on the uneven bars with her score of 8.6.

Ithaca College won the meet overall with a team total of 172.575 edging out SUNY Cortland who scored 171.70. MIT finished 6th place overall with the year's highest team score of 156.025.

MIT began the Championships on vaulting where Kim Cornwell '94, Stephanie Shaw '95, and Erica Carmel '96 all performed solid handspring vaults. Rookie vaulting talent Valentina Sequi '97 stuck her 1/2 on 1/2 off for a 7.1, while Janet Sollod '96 landed her full-twisting handspring without a faltering step for a score of 8.6. Rocchio, still having problems with her handspring double-front, underrotated the landing and scored an 8.7.

On the uneven bars. both co-captains Stephanie DeWeese '95 and Beth Chen '94 had the cleanest routines of their season and set the tone for Carmel, whose straddle back and cut-catch were both perfect. Sollod had her best performance of the season as well, swinging an underswing 1/2 twist and release combination to completion despite underrotating her dismount for a score of 8.05. Rocchio had problems with her routine and suffered a few falls despite landing her dismount and scored a 7.65 while Chiarenza, returning for the first meet in weeks despite a serious knee injury, was queen of the MIT bars as she swung through handstands and twisting pieroettes for a score of 8.6 despite not being able to dismount because of her injury.

The balance beam once again was the crowning glory for MIT. This difficult event was controlled by the Engineers as Shaw led off with a perfect routine including a back walkover and switch-leg leap combination. DeWeese and Carmel, despite one fall each, again performed outstandingly and earned their top scores of the season of 7.25 and 7.4, respectively. Chen, displaying grace and strength, ended her competitive career as a gymnast with a breathtaking routine of tremendous leaps and jumps for a score of 8.55 while Sollod, missing only her backhandspring, was brilliant as well and earned an 8.25 despite the break. Rocchio, upon landing her back handspring back-layout flight series, knew that she had the title in her grasp and completed the rest of her difficult routine with steadiness and determination - a routine that earned her a new MIT record and the first ECAC title ever for MIT on the balance beam for her score of 9.3.

The successes of the previous event left MIT to compete on the floor exercise. Cornwell, with her jazzy style and energetic tumbling, completed her final competitive routine and gymnastics career to the supportive roar of the home crowd as Shaw and Carmel both followed her with beautiful performances for scores of 6.4 and 7.25. DeWeese, known for her exceptional grace as a dancer, performed powerful tumbling with a back layout in the first pass and a back tuck in her last. Sollod landed her full-twisting back layout and displayed her signature flexibility and strength with her leap combinations for an excellent score of 8.85 while Rocchio easily landed her double back somersault and finished a routine that left her only .075 behind another ECAC title with her score of 9.225.

Overall, it was the best performance at an ECAC Gymnastics Championships that MIT has ever had. Rocchio's ECAC title, combined with the excellent performances by all MIT team members, made it an afternoon of MIT gymnastics to cherish and remember for always. Sollod, Rocchio, and Chiarenza have all qualified for the Division III National Championships that will be held on March 1719 at Ursinus College and are hoping to add National and All-American titles as well to the list of accomplishments these women have earned during this banner year for MIT women's gymnastics.