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Women Gymnasts Perform Solidly Despite Close Losses in First Meets

By Sheila Rocchio
assistant coach

The women's gymnastics team has had a busy January, competing in four meets over a 10-day span. The team began the 1997 season by traveling to meet the University of Bridgeport on Jan. 11 and totalled an impressive 169.45 in this first tournament to Bridgeport's 184.70.

The team then hosted both Yale University and the 1996 Division III champion Springfield College on Jan. 15 in a packed Du Pont gymnasium to succumb in a close contest to Yale's 176.475. Springfield earned 175.375. MIT's 172.45 was the Engineers' highest total in the past two years.

The Engineers returned to Connecticut on Jan. 18 to meet Southern Connecticut State University where this Division II-ranked powerhouse scored 177.90 to MIT's 167.70. The team put in its most solid performance against Brown University last Wednesday. Twenty out of 24 performances were hit, yet Brown won with a total of 173.45 to MIT's 167.225.

Freshman standout Lee Knight '00 earned the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Gymnast of the week title for her outstanding performances over these first meets of the season, the best of which was at Bridgeport where she totalled an all-around score of 35.85, earning second place overall in the meet.

Knight's routines included a piked Tsukahara on vaulting for a score of 8.7 and an 8.9 for a difficulty-packed uneven bars routine. Beam was her top event of the day, and she scored a 9.2 for a standing back-layout somersault and a full-twisting dismount. Knight's double-twisting opening tumbling run and energetic leaps and combinations earned her another high score of 9.05.

Freshman Nann Kronschnabel '00 was the strongest vaulter for the Engineers, earning an 8.85 for her beautifully landed full-twisting handspring. Captains Alli Christenson '98 and Sheila Rocchio '97 also vaulted strongly, with Christenson earning an 8.65 for her full-twisting vault and Rocchio with her 1 1/2 somersaulting just shy of a landing for a score of 8.45.

Sophomore newcomer Rachel Van Buren '99 earned an 8.325 for her handspring full-twist, while the team's third competing freshman Stephanie Cheng '00 turned in an 8.125. Captain Tasi Chiarenza '97 performed a full-twisting giant on the high bar and scored a solid 8.45 despite under rotating her 1 1/2 somersaulting dismount.

Balance beam may prove to be the Engineers' strongest event this season with 1996 National Balance Beam finalist Christenson scoring 9.075 and Rocchio earning an 8.8 despite a .5 deduction for a fall on her back-handspring back-layout tumbling combination. Marnie Bell '99 and Van Buren continued the strong balancing act, with respective beam scores of 8.5 and 8.25.

Floor exercise was consistent for MIT with Rocchio's tumbling and dance earning an 8.95 and Christenson, Van Buren, and Cheng all following suit with scores of 8.65, 8.6, and 8.3.

The home tri-meet against Yale and Springfield provided the season's most exciting performances with balance beam again proving to be one of MIT's most dependable events. All six balance beam performers turned in scores above 8.0 with Kronschnabel's back handsprings and leaps earning an 8.65, while Van Buren, despite missing a double turn, scored an 8.1. Rocchio missed her layout tumbling pass but still earned an 8.5, while Chiarenza, Christenson, and Knight all stayed on the beam for scores of 8.85, 8.95, and 9.0.

Notable vaults were again performed by Rocchio and Kronschnabel, who both earned scores of 8.8 while uneven bars was again dominated by Knight who scored another 9.0. Rocchio earned her season's high bar score of 8.55 despite over-rotating her toe-on-front dismount.

The standing room only crowd was treated to MIT's highest ever scoring floor routine competition as Cheng, Kronschnabel, and Christenson led off with an 8.4, 8.7, and 8.8. Van Buren's full-twisting layout and front-handspring front pike earned an 8.825 while Knight again nailed her double twist for a score of 9.3. Rocchio finished off the evening by winning the floor exercise overall as she sky-rocketed a double back somersault and landed it perfectly for a score of 9.325.

The meet against Southern Connecticut showed that the MIT women were still going strong despite the fact that it was the third competition inside of a week. Christenson was the top vaulter for MIT, earning an 8.65 for her handspring full-twist while Rocchio and Chiarenza (vaulting for the first time this season after an ankle injury) earned 8.55 and 8.5 despite under-rotating their handspring fronts.

Chiarenza was in top form on the uneven bars as she swung her turning uprises and full-twisting circles on the high bar for MIT's top bar score of the season of 9.025, while Knight was close behind with an 8.95.

Balance beam saw two 8.6 scores for Bell and Christenson while Chiarenza stuck her two back handspring flight series for an 8.65. Knight earned an 8.7 while Rocchio was the Engineers' top balance beam performer as she stuck her back handspring back-layout flight series and landed a perfect round-off full-twisting dismount for a score of 8.925. Knight and Christenson finished off the afternoon as MIT's top floor performers earning respective scores of 8.8 and 9.15.

Last Wednesday's competition at Brown was the team's best overall performance. The MIT women hit 20 out of 24 routines despite lower scores because of tough judging. The meet's highlights included Knight's piked Tsukahara, stuck for a score of 8.75, and Rocchio and Chiarenza's front-front vaults earning 8.65.

Uneven bars saw beautiful routines from Rocchio, landing her 1 1/2 somersaulting dismount perfectly; Knight, who caught two twisting releases over the high bar; and Chiarenza, whose giant full-twist on the highbar swung right through the handstand position for respective scores of 8.3, 8.45, and 8.5.

Bell, Van Buren, Rocchio, and Christenson all stuck their beam routines and scored 8.05, 8.3, 8.5, and 8.7 while Christenson and Rocchio's scores of 8.85 and 8.95 on the floor exercise set the stage for another high score by Knight of 9.3.

MIT hosts Division III Hamline University from Minnesota this Saturday at 1 p.m. in Du Pont Gymnasium. The team will have just returned from two meets in California against San Jose State, the University of California at Davis, and Sacramento State University and will be gearing up to have a strong showing against their Hamline rivals.