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Women's Gymnastics Breaks Team Scoring Record, Makes Nationals

By Catherine Garrett
Team Coach

The women's gymnastics team wrapped its "first-time-ever" qualification to the Division III National Gymnastics Championships recently with yet another record-breaking team performance in a quad-meet against the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Rutgers University, and the University of Vermont - all Division I schools.

For the fifth time this season, MIT set a new team record as it totaled 172.2 to UMass' 189.175, Rutgers' 181.625, and UVM's 177.6. This score broke the team record score of 170.525 set a few weeks ago, in the meet against Yale University.

The outcome of the meet was due to many intense practice sessions on the balance beam where mental toughness is key. Taking coach Eduardo Ovalle's words "the team that stays on the beam succeeds" to heart, the women conquered their opening event, the balance beam, and hit five out of six routines.

Erica Carmel '96 and Michelle Miles '98 set the rotation up by sticking their sets for scores of 7.55 and 8.6, respectively, while captain Janet Sollod '96 kept the pace going with her score of 8.9.

Melissa Kaye '94 stood up a gorgeous side aerial while Allie Christenson '98 joined the prestigious 9.0 club for the first time this year with a score of 9.0. Sheila Rocchio '97 anchored the squad with her back-layout that helped earn a score of 9.15.

On the floor exercise Carmel earned an 8.0 personal best score for her lively routine. Sandy Dow '96 soon followed with an 8.55, and Christenson added an 8.9. Miles was also inducted into the "9.0's" as she earned a season-high score of 9.125.

Sollod and Rocchio were the superb finale as Rocchio nailed her double back somersault for respective scores of 9.075 and 9.325.

Vaulting and bars were consistent for the Engineers with Valentina Sequi '97 sticking a 1/2 on 1/2 off vault for a 7.725. Miles, Christenson, and Sollod all completed full-twisting vaults for scores of 8.5 and two 8.675's. Rocchio earned an 8.9 for her front-handspring front-front vault.

Uneven bars was a showcase for first-place nationally ranked Tasi Chiarenza '97 to demonstrate a full-twisting giant on the high bar and earn her top score of the year, 8.9. Carmel also hit her routine for a score of 7.3, while Miles and Rocchio both fought problems with landing dismount but still scored well at 8.25 and 8.5.

Overall, Rocchio had her top score of the season with a 35.875, while teammates Christenson and Miles tied at 34.475, and Sollod followed close behind at 34.3.

The team meets Division I Brown University this Saturday at 7 p.m. in DuPont Gymnasium. The nationally-ranked MIT team prepares to avenge a 0.1 loss to Brown earlier this season.