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SUNY Defeats MIT Gymnasts, Individuals Qualify for Tourney

By Eduardo Ovalle
Team Coach

In a highly contested ECAC Championship meet on Saturday afternoon the Engineers competed aggressively, but committed a couple of mistakes which hurt them in the end. MIT needed to hit 24 for 24 routines in order to stay ahead in hopes of hanging on to the third and final qualifying spot for the NCGA Nationals.

In addition, ECAC counts as a weighted score of 60 percent toward the final season average so this meet became even more important for the team as well as any individuals hoping to qualify. MIT was in a very tight race with State University of New York, Cortland and Ursinus College for the third position in the east. By the end of the meet, MIT found themselves 2.2 behind Cortland and 1 full point behind host Ursinus College.

The final scores of this meet combined with the current seasonal average score (SAS) in a weighted 60 percent to 40 percent ratio, flip-flops the teams putting Cortland ahead for the third and last qualifying spot in the east. Cortland 141.32 had, Ursinus 140.79, and MIT 140.43. Both Ursinus and MIT still have one more meet on their schedule which will count towards the SAS portion of the ranking formula, but both teams would have to score 3 points higher than they have all year to overtake Cortland.

In fairness, the team from Cortland N.Y., is better and they had the better meet. MIT has pulled even with Cortland by competing very consistent lately while Cortland, until now, has had problems putting it together. So the saying rings true for when teams are closely matched: "it is not who has the best team that wins, but the one that hits their routines" that comes out on top.

MIT's meet started on beam after a bye with Liz Ellingson '01 turning in one of her best efforts of the year for an 8.75. One of the judges actually flashed a 9.1, which was more in line with what she should have received, but after a lengthy conference, the judges settled on the lower score. Marnie Bell '99 followed with a 7.65 which included two falls. Nann Kronschnabel '00 hit her front on mount just to fall off on a tuck jump with a full twist and still scored a respectable 8.6. Up next was Rachel Van Buren '99 who hit the routine of her life for a personal best 9.125. Her score was also good enough to place her 5th on beam in the competition.

Alli Christenson followed with a solid acro series and then balked on a jump and wobbled her way off the beam. She attacked the rest of the routine, but it just wasn't her day and she had another major wobble before finishing with a score of 8.35. Just as hitting a beam routine is contagious, so is missing it. Sonja Ellefson '01 competed one of her most solid routines all year but her backhandspring layout was so crooked that she landed it with one foot on the beam and the rest of her body coming down. Even with a fall, she salvaged a 9.0, which placed her 6th overall on beam, but with 5 team falls, the team was not off to a good start.

Floor exercise was next, after another bye since there were 7 teams in the competition. Everyone in the line-up performed a solid routine including Van Buren's new, more difficult tumbling passes. The cleanest set belonged to Ellefson and she was rewarded with a 9.35 which was good enough to crown her the 1998 ECAC Floor Exercise Champion. She becomes only the second MIT gymnast ever to win an event at ECACs. Vault followed floor without a bye in between, and the team performed very well, tying the school record for a 5 score vault total (44.725), and only one tenth behind the four score event total with a 36.125. Kronschnabel and Christenson performed clean handspring fulls for 9.0s and Ellefson pulled out a layout tsuk for a 9.4, eventually taking third place overall on vault.

The final event was bars, the team's weakest event, and they had to do extraordinarily well to make up for the falls on beam. Stephanie Cheng '00 started off on the right track with her best bar routine of the year and that was followed by strong efforts by Ellingson and Van Buren. Kronschnabel threw a new routine that she had worked on during the week and it showed as she struggled putting the whole thing together and had to count a fall. Christenson swung her usual solid routine for an 8.75 and Ellefson wrapped up the meet with a 9.2 which ties her personal best and helped her to finish 4th on this event.

During the course of the season, the team has improved a full 4.5 points on bars, but even that was not good enough to fight off a stronger Cortland bars team. In the end, it the bars proved the deciding factor of the meet as Cortland beat MIT on that event by 2.65 and Ursinus by 2.05.

The team had a lot of fun at the match. They competed well and placed three gymnasts in the top 10 all-arounds (Ellefson 3rd, Christenson 8th and Van Buren 10th). Ellefson also captured the floor championship as well as 3rd on vault, 4th on bars and 6th on beam. The most pleasant surprise was Van Buren's 5th place finish on beam with a 9.125. This team accomplished a lot just to get into a position to be able to qualify to the NCGA championships.

While Cortland will qualify as a team, MIT will bring Sonja Ellefson and Alli Christenson as all-arounders to the meet, and possibly Rachel Van Buren on both beam and floor.

The season is not quite over. MIT has one more dual meet at Rhode Island College, the host site for the NCGA's. With three gymnasts qualifying to Nationals, they hope to bring home some individual awards home from that meet.