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Women's Gymnastics Shows Strong Individual Efforts

By Catherine Rocchio
Assistant Coach

The MIT Women's gymnastics team went a long way last week towards earning a qualifying team score for the Division III National Championships, despite losing to Division I and Division III rivals Brown University, Yale University, University of Vermont, and Rhode Island College.

On Jan. 24, the Engineers lost a close to tri-meet: RIC prevailed with a team score of 169.2, Brown 167.825, and MIT 165.0. Saturday's meet held at Yale saw UVM taking top honors with a score of 184.7, Yale 182.75, and MIT 169.975.

The meet began on the vault where Erica Carmel '96 and Co-captain Tasi Chiarenza '97 both stuck handspring vaults for scores of 7.55 and 8.0. Valentina Sequi '97 and Alli Christenson '98 easily landed their full-twisting vaults and earned respective scores of 8.1 and 8.4 while co-captain Janet Sollod '96 and defending Division III National Champion Sheila Rocchio '97 were tops for MIT with scores of 8.55 and 8.75.

Uneven bars presented some problems to the Engineers as Sollod took a bad fall during the three-minute touch prior to the event. Reshuffling the line-up to allow Sollod to recover, Christenson lightly touched her hands on the only double back somersaulting dismount of the competition and earned an 8.25 while Rocchio followed up with a 1 1/2 front somersaulting dismount for a score of 8.65 and second place overall on the event. Chiarenza, brilliantly performing a full-twisting giant swing and landing her 1 1/2 front somersault dismount, won the event overall with a score of 8.9.

Christenson was the only Engineer to stick her whole beam routine and included a roundoff backhandspring flight series and a roundoff full-twist for a dismount and a score of 8.85 and third place overall on the event. Carmel missed only her front somersault dismount and scored a solid 7.1 while the talents of newcomer Marni Bell '99 added a score of 8.15 to the total. Chiarenza and Rocchio each suffered one fall for scores of 8.15 and 8.3.

Floor exercise rounded out the evening's competition with an Engineer taking top honors overall for the second time that evening as Sollod scored a personal best score of 9.25 for beautiful dance combined with a full-twisting layout as the final tumbling run. Rocchio, nursing a twisted ankle, took third place overall on the event with a score of 9.0. Christenson, Bell and Chiarenza all turned in clean routines for scores of 8.6, 8.2, and 7.7, while Sequi lent her tumbling talents for a score of 7.9.

Rocchio's 34.7 all-around total placed her third overall in the meet while Christenson's 34.7, Chiarenza's 32.75, and Sollod's 32.55 should continue their pace as individual contender's for the National Championships.

The meet at Yale showed marked improvements in the Engineers performances. Each of the MIT vaulters scored their season's highest with Chiarenza and Sandy Dow '96 earning 8.0 and 8.2 for handspring's while Sequi and Sollod stuck full-twisters for scores of 8.35 and 8.725. Christenson and Rocchio were leading scorers for MIT as Christenson's handspring full-twist earned an 8.825 and Rocchio's front-handspring 1 1/2 somersaulting vault scored a 9.1.

Uneven bars debuted the best routine of Rocchio's career as she earned her personal best score of 9.0 for a straddle-back to handstand and perfect toe-front dismount landing. Chiarenza and Christenson followed suit with their routines for scores of 8.6 and 8.5 while Carmel's straddle back and backlayout dismount and Sollod's 1 1/2 front somersault rounded out the season's best bar rotation with scores of 7.0 and 8.05.

Beam and Floor added to MIT's strength as balance beam highlighted Sollod earning a season's high score of 8.9 despite a fall on a backhandspring and Christenson scoring 8.55 after missing her difficult flight series as well. Rocchio, Chiarenza, and Bell lent their respective scores of 8.4, 8.55, and 8.0 to complete the event.

Floor exercise earned Sequi a personal best score of 8.2 for her back layout tumbling pass while Bell and Chiarenza's form and grace scored 8.1 and 8.15. Christenson and Sollod both ended their routines with difficult tumbling passes of a full-twisting back-layout for an 8.7 and 8.95 while Rocchio's sky-high double back somersault led MIT with a 9.225.

Overall, the four all-arounders on the team turned in national caliber totals as Chiarenza earned a 33.3, Christenson a 34.575, and Sollod a career personal best total of 34.625. Rocchio, too, had her season's highest total of a 35.725.

The Engineers travel to the University of Bridgeport next weekend and then remain home on Feb. 10 to face Division III rivals Ithaca College and Wilson College.