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Women's Gymnastics Loses Despite Strong Performance

By Catherine Rocchio
Women's Gymnastics Coach

The MIT women's gymnastics team continues its season with excellent performances by Tasi Chiarenza '97 and Sheila Rocchio '97, as well as Janet Sollod '96. The team is still searching for its first win, however, as the season's first home meet on Jan. 22 against Division II Southern Connecticut State University turned up a loss with MIT scoring 153.35 to SCSU's 176.2.

Last Wednesday, MIT travelled to Brown University to compete in a tri-meet that included Division III rival Rhode Island College. Although the meet was very close, Brown won with a score of 164.5 to RIC's 159.45 and MIT's 153.4.

MIT's vaulting performance against SCSU was the team's best of the season. Sollod performed a handspring full-twist for a score of 8.6 while Chiarenza and Rocchio both performed double front-somersault vaults for identical scores of 8.75 despite unsteady landings in both cases.

Uneven bars resulted in an elbow injury for Rocchio during the warm-up period, but the team pulled together as Co-captain Stephine DeWeese `95 completed her first no-fall routine and Sollod landed her 1 1/2 front somersault dismount for a score of 7.75. Chiarenza again proved that she is one of the powerhouses in the nation on uneven bars, scoring an 8.95 for a breathtaking routine with a perfect dismount and easily took first place overall on the event.

Balance beam was very steady for the Engineers as DeWeese and Erica Carmel '96 had strong routines with only one fall for respective scores of 6.7 and 6.8. Co-Captain Beth Chen '94 slipped twice but finished up confidently with soaring leaps and flexible jumps for a score of 7.4. Sollod had an elegant routine, landing a back handspring and difficult twisting jumps for her personal best score of 8.65 and third place overall on the event. Chiarenza had her first "no falls" routine of the season and executed two back handsprings, a back tuck, and a 1 1/2 twisting dismount for a score of 8.55. Rocchio, with elbow iced and taped, managed to stick her back handspring layout, the most difficult skill performed on the beam in the meet, but fell on a side straddle leap, yet earning an 8.3 despite the fall.

Floor exercise highlighted the best overall team event performance in MIT gymnastics history with Kim Cornwell '94's energetic dance and Carmel's clean tumbling earning them scores of 6.85 and 7.25. DeWeese had her most graceful showing for a score of 7.95, while Chiarenza and Sollod both earned scores of 8.9 for tumbling passes of full-twisting somersaults and flawless dance. Rocchio had the MIT season's highest score on the floor exercise as she tumbled and danced her way to a score of 9.1. Overall, Chiarenza tied for second place overall with her season's highest all-around score of 35.15 and Sollod was fourth with her career highest score of 33.9.

At Brown, the clean handsprings of Stephanie Shaw '95, Cornwell, and Carmel earned them respective scores of 6.95, 7.1, and 7.2 while Sollod's full-twist again scored well for an 8.45. Rocchio had problems landing her double-front on the first vault and opted to perform only a handspring vault for a score of 8.0 while Chiarenza came just shy of perfectly landing her double front for a score of 8.75 and second place overall in the meet.

Carmel had her strongest bar routine of the season and earned a 6.6, despite a toe-tap on the mat during her free straddle-back over the low bar. Rocchio and Sollod each performed with a few breaks on release moves and their 1 1/2 somersaulting dismounts as they scored 7.6 and 7.8. Problems on the 1 1/2 dismount pervaded the team as Chiarenza also over-rotated hers; still she scored an 8.4 for an otherwise excellent routine and again earned second place on the event.

The balance beam competition highlighted a strong round-off and switch-leg leap by Carmel and another no-falls routine by Chen for scores of 6.35 and 7.85. Rocchio suffered a fall on her back-handspring back-layout flight series for a score of 8.15. Sollod stumbled off the beam on her mount but strongly finished an energetic routine while Chiarenza had her season's best routine for respective scores of 8.45 and 8.65. Here too, Chiarenza earned a tie for second place overall on the event.

Floor exercise was not as strong as the previous Saturday's performance but DeWeese displayed high acrobatic tumbling and Sollod landed a clean full-twisting back layout for scores of 7.6 and 8.4. Chiarenza took third place overall on floor for her energetic routine and score of 8.75. Rocchio performed the first double-back somersault ever done by an MIT gymnast and the most difficult acrobatic skill of the competition, but overrotated the landing for a score of 8.6. Overall, Chiarenza took second place in the meet with her score of 34.55 while Sollod and Rocchio were 4th and 5th with their strong scores of 33.1 and 32.35.

MIT hosts its second home meet of the season on Feb. 12 at 1:00 in DuPont Gymnasium against Brown University, where it will attempt to remedy the loss of this past week. In the meantime, the team travels to compete against Division I UMASS-Amherst this Friday.