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Rocchio Leads Woman Gymnasts In Record-Breaking Performances

By Catherine Garrett
assistant coach

The women's gymnastics team excelled during the whirlwind competition of recent weeks.

On Feb. 15, the team turned in a record performance in the Cornell Invitational against Cornell University, the University of Vermont, Ithaca College, and Rhode Island College.

This followed a close loss at home against Division III rival Hamline University from St. Paul, Minn. on Feb. 1.

On Jan. 24 and 25, the team traveled to California on Jan. 24 and 25 to compete against the Division I powerhouse teams of San Jose State University, the University of California at Davis, and California State University at Sacramento.

Not only have these recent weeks of competition taken the team far geographically, but they have moved the team into record-breaking territory. The women's performance at Cornell earned a team score of 175.875, a total which smashes the Engineers' previous record of 172.45 set earlier this season. This meet established this year's squad as the best-ever women's gymnastics team at MIT.

Leading the effort was team tri-captain Sheila Rocchio '97, who broke her own MIT all-around record of 36.35 set during her 1995 Division III National Championship performance with a 36.5 on a near-perfect performance.

The history-making competition at Cornell showed that the MIT women had no weaknesses. Rachel Van Buren '99 and tri-captain Alli Christenson '98 had full-twisting vaults for scores of 8.65 and 8.675. Later, Nann Kronschnabel '00 scored her career-highest vaulting score of 8.95 for the same vault. Freshman standout Lee Knight '00 stuck her piked Tsukahara and earned her season's best score of 9.05 while Rocchio stood up her first 11/2 somersaulting front-front of the season for the team's top score of 9.25.

Uneven bars showcased stalder circle on the high bar by tri-captain Tasi Chiarenza '97 with a score of 8.55. Also on the bars, Rocchio's straddle-back to handstand and toe-on-front dismount and Knight's back uprise to handstand for earned 8.9 and 9.175, respectively.

Balance beam saw Marnie Bell '99, Van Buren, and Knight all sticking difficult twisting jumps and turns. Meanwhile, Christenson, finishing strongly after a fall on her round-off backhandspring tumbling run, scored an 8.7 despite the .5 deduction for a fall. Rocchio nailed her sixth back-layout in a row during competition for her season's highest and the team's top score of 9.2.

Floor exercise exhibited another personal best score for Kronschnabel as she completed a full-twisting layout during her first tumbling run for a score of 9.075. Meanwhile, front-layout half-twist tumbling by Van Buren and graceful dancing by Stephanie Cheng '00 earned scores of 8.875 and 8.85.

Christenson danced and tumbled with energy for a score of 8.975 while Rocchio hit her only flaw of the meet as she under-rotated her double back yet still scored a 9.15. Knight was on top for MIT on the floor exercise as her difficult tumbling of a double twist, an Arabian half-twisting somersault, and a front layout earned the season's highest score of 9.45.

Hamline creeps past MIT

Hamline University edged MIT out during the Feb. 1 competition scoring a 174.825 to the Engineers' 172.175. Still, the team performed strongly with Kronschnabel competing a soaring handspring full-twist for MIT's top score of 8.7 and turning in a jazzy floor performance for an 8.9.

Chiarenza had her personal best floor exercise score of 9.1 as did Van Buren at an 8.8. Christenson and Knight followed up with twisting tumbling runs and respective scores of 9.15 and 9.225 while Rocchio had MIT's top floor exercise, nailing a double back somersault, for a score of 9.25.

Rocchio was also MIT's top performer on the balance beam where again, her back-handspring back-layout tumbling, was the highlight of her routine and posted an 8.9. Van Buren, Knight, and Christenson rounded out the balance beam rotation with scores of 8.55, 8.7, and 8.85 and showed that balance beam might definitely be the team's strongest event this year.

Knight's two release moves on the uneven bars earned her the top slot of the afternoon on this event as she scored a 9.0 immediately after teammate Chiarenza scored a strong 8.9.

Team performs well in California

Highlights of the California competitions included Chiarenza landing her first 11/2 somersaulting front-handspring vault for the season's highest vaulting score of 9.25 and completing two beautiful full-twisting giants during bar routines which scored 8.9 and 8.95.

Christenson had her personal best all-around performance as she totaled a 35.4 with a 9.1 on the floor exercise, a 9.0 on the balance beam for a solid round-off backhandspring tumbling series, an 8.7 on the uneven bars, and an 8.6 for a full-twisting vault.

Rocchio stuck all of her back-handspring back-layouts on the balance beam and earned a 9.0 while her floor scores of 9.05 helped her earn two all-around totals of 35.05 in the successive competitions.

Knight had two excellent floor exercise performances that highlighted her double twisting back somersault and earned two 9.15's while Sabra Kelin '98 earned an 8.0 for her floor exercise that included a layout back somersault in her first tumbling run.

Cheng, too, had an outstanding floor exercise routine that scored 8.95 while Van Buren earned an 8.85 on the floor and 8.7 on the balance beam for her solid backhandspring and double turn. Bell was consistently unwavering on the balance beam as she scored 8.55 twice on the event.

Them team is currently on track to qualify as a team for the Division III National Championships at LaCrosse, Wis. in March. In the meantime, the women will be concentrating on the next few weeks of competition including traveling to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, to Cortland, N.Y. for the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships on March 1, and finally back home for the last ever MIT performances of Rocchio and Chiarenza on March 8, against Brown University and Rhode Island College.