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Women Gymnasts 4th at ECACs

By Catherine Garrett
Team Coach

The women's gymnastics team wrapped up its dual-meet season last Wednesday evening with a loss to Division I-ranked Northeastern University by a score of 169.15 to 180.85. Despite the loss, the meet was an excellent precursor to the weekend's Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships hosted by Ithaca College.

MIT had a fourth place finish at the ECAC with a score of 170.0 points, beating Ursinus College's 158.375 and Rhode Island College's 155.85. However, it surrendered to team champion Ithaca, which scored 178.975 and State University of New York Corland with 176.4, and narrowly missed SUNY Brockport's third place result of 170.5.

Highlights from the Northeastern meet included season's-best performances by team captain Janet Sollod '96 on vault and floor exercise. Her perfect landing of a handspring full-twist on vaulting earned an 8.75, and her graceful dance and flexibility on the floor exercise made her the top MIT scorer of the evening with a 9.25.

Tasi Chiarenza '97 scored 8.875 in her first floor routine since reconstructed-knee surgery. Chiarenza's beam and bar routines were the best for the MIT squad and personal bests for her this season as she scored 8.825 for a solid balance beam routine and earned a 9.1 on the uneven bars.

Sheila Rocchio '97 had her strongest bar routine of the season with a score of 8.95, while Michelle Miles '98 landed a beautiful full-twisting layout for a 9.0 on the floor exercise. Miles also had her top bar routine of the season with a score of 8.85.

Success at Championships

With such high scores and personal bests coming out of the last home meet of the season, the MIT women were determined to perform consistently at the weekend's Championships, and at this they certainly succeeded.

With vaulting as the first event, MIT set the stage for a winning meet. Sandy Dow '96, Chiarenza, and Valentina Sequi '97 all had their season's best vaults for scores of 8.05, 8.1, and 8.15, respectively.

Miles and Sollod stuck their full-twisting landings and earned 8.575 and 8.62 while Rocchio landed her front handspring 1-1/2-rotating front somersault vault for a score of 9.15 and a silver medal overall on the event.

The Engineers demonstrated their tenacity on the uneven bars as one routine after the other was completed without a single break. Erica Carmel '96 and Alli Christenson '98 set the pace with clean routines. Sollod nailed her toe on front dismount for a score of 8.15 and Miles pulled out three free-hip to handstands in a row on the high bar for an 8.05. Rocchio also nailed her front-somersaulting dismount for an 8.45 while Chiarenza earned top meet honors in fourth place overall as she swung a full-twisting giant and a toe-on-handstand for a 9.1.

The team had struggled on the balance beam all season, and continued to have some problems at the meet. But Miles, leading off for the squad, had a beautiful set, and scored an 8.975 that merited a fourth place finish overall. Sollod and Melissa Kaye '95 were both unwavering as Sollod's switch-side leap and backhandspring earned an 8.85 while Kaye's aerial cartwheel was rock solid for her season's best score of 8.775.

Rocchio valiantly managed to stave off a fall on her back-handspring back layout but was shaky and suffered from many wobbles to end up with an 8.45. Chiarenza missed her jump full-twist but was otherwise solid for an 8.45.

MIT finished up on its best event, the floor exercise, and showed off excellent routines to stiff judging. Dow, Kaye, and Chiarenza all tumbled well for scores of 8.1, 8.05, and 8.2 while Miles and Sollod were as flawless as ever, albeit for a rather lower than expected 8.85 and 8.775, respectively.

Rocchio nailed a huge double back somersault, and vindicated the team by scoring a 9.35, which earned a bronze medal overall on the event.

Rocchio was fourth place overall in the meet with a 35.4; teammates Miles and Sollod were close behind, finishing seventh and eighth with a 34.45 and 34.4, respectively.

The team travels next week to Minnesota to compete in the Division III National Championships. This is the first time in 19 years of MIT women's gymnastics that the entire team has qualified for such an event.

Returning All-Americans Chiarenza and Rocchio, along with Miles and Sollod, have high hopes of ranking top among the nations finest athletes as the team looks forward to making a marked impression at its Nationals debut.