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Men's Gymnastics Shatters Five All-Time MIT Records

By Van N. Van
Team Member

The MIT men's gymnastics team traveled to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Saturday, where they delivered one the finest performances in the season at the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Division I/II/III Gymnastics Championships. Even though they did not place in the top three in the competition and did not break into finals, their performance was the best ever in the season and possibly, in MIT history.

The team arrived at UMass early Saturday morning and immediately began warming up - both physically and mentally - for this challenging event. After 90 minutes of timed warm ups where each of the 10 teams had 10 minutes touch on all six events, the competition officially began.

The Engineers began the meet on one of their strongest events, the still rings. Geoffrey Phillipe '95, a novice in the event, started out strong with a respectable score of 5.4 while Manuel Jaime '94 kept the team moving with a 5.8. Rob Cooper '97 was able to reap a score of 7.35 despite a shoulder injury. Andy Lobban 97 earned a score of 8.0 with two beautiful L-crosses. Chris Ellefson '95, who admitted that he only had 30 minutes of sleep the night before, did not show any sign of fatigue or weariness as he executed two exquisite L-crosses and double back earning him a score of 8.45. Scott Lazer, the last competitor of the event, finished the rotation with a near flawless routine and a high flying double back for the highest score of 8.55. The total score on the still rings, 38.15, is a new MIT record, easily surpassing the previous high of 35.1.

But the Engineers had only just warmed up. The team was ready to break another record in the next event, the floor exercise. Art Shectman '95 started the rotation with a fine back-back and a well punched front-front earning him a score of 8.15. Jaime had some difficult with his routine and received a 7.7. Lobban picked up the slack with his impeccable form and clean execution for an 8.25. Cooper had some difficulty with his front-one-and-a-half punch front but came back and stuck his final full for an identical score as Lobban. Chi Won '94 edged Lobban with a powerful piked-front step-out flip-flop back and a score of 8.35. Ellefson, performed well despite his lack of sleep. With an excellent full-punch-back, back-back, and front-front, he scored an 8.75. The total on floor exercise set yet another record in the MIT gymnastics record. With a 41.75, the Engineers fragmented the previous record of 40.7.

The team suffered on their third and weakest event, the pommel horse. With a few minor deductions and a few falls, Jaime, Ellefson, and Lobban scored 4.4, 4.85, and 5.8 respectively. Cooper performed the strongest on the pommels with beautiful flares that captured the highest score of 6.65. After three events, they had a total score of 105.25, by far, the highest total at this particular point for the team. The Engineers were "sizzling" and did not intend to slow down any bit.

Brian Young '96 started the high bar rotation with a clean routine and stuck his fly-away for a 5.15. Shectman performed a flawless blind change for a 5.4. Cooper was still unable to perform his normal routine but was able to throw a double back and snatch a 6.2 from the judges. Ellefson had a fine routine until his double back dismount when his hands slightly touch the floor when he landed which gave him a .5 deduction and a final score of 6.6. Won had a lot of trouble in this event. After missing his cow-hop and falling off the appartus on a C-release move, the aggressive gymnastics fought back with pure adrenaline and stuck a double pike for a score of 5.7. Lobban was "on" as he hit one element after another. After catching a high ginger and landing a double pike, he reaped the highest score of 8.1.

The team remained aggressive as there were two more events to go. The vaulting horse was next, an area where the team was hoping for a team score of 40 or above. Young started the event with a nearly perfect handspring vault for a score of 8.15. Shectman followed the wonderful start with a perfectly landed handspring vault for a score of 8.0. Won executed a high flying handspring half turn which earned him an 8.3. Jaime, who had a small step in his landing, came after Won with a 7.7. Ellefson over-rotated his sukahara and had to take a slight deduction when he stepped back on his landing but was still able to capture an 8.4 from the judges. Cooper, with an extremely high handspring front, snatched the highest score, with 8.7. The event total was more than what the team had hoped for, a 41.55.

The final event was the parallel bars where Engineers intended to end the meet strongly. Jaime started off the last event with near impeccable form and a score of 6.5, while Lazerwith once again dazzled the judges with incredible strength for a 6.55. Won suffered from a fall which to many looked like a new move on the P-bars. But Won came back more aggressive than ever and completed his routine with a back toss and stuck his dismount well. Cooper stepped up the competition one notch with a score of 6.75 while Ellefson, who had a wobbly started on the event, stuck his dismount nearly perfectly for a score of 7.75. But the event belonged to Lobban, who despite the traumatic experience of breaking one of the P-bars in the previous meet, performed his very best on the event with elegant line and a clean double back dismount, the same element that caused his previous accident. His excellent performance set a new MIT individuals record of 8.8. In addition, the team set a new record on the event with a score of 36.35 surpassing the previous record by 2.1 points.

When the total score was flashed on the board, they knew that they had made MIT history. With a total score of 215.15, the Engineers shattered the MIT team total record by more than 5.5 points, and still there was a lot of room for improvement. For now, they return to the gym and practice even harder for the upcoming USGF Nationals in Texas where they hope to exceed this total as well.