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MIT Gymnasts Honored at Thode Island Competition

By Eduardo Ovalle
Team Coach

Three female gymnasts represented MIT at this past weekend's National Collegiate Gymnastics Championships at Rhode Island College. Sonja Ellefson '01, and co-captains Rachel Van Buren '99 and Alli Christenson '98 competed as individual qualifiers.

The best performance of the night was by Christenson, who in her last collegiate gymnastics competition had the meet of her life. She was the first competitor of the meet on the floor exercise and tied her personal best score of 9.25. The vault followed and Christenson scored a 8.925. In the next event, Christenson set a personal best on the uneven bars with an 8.9. The last event of the evening for Christenson was the balance beam where she performed a rock solid routine that earned her a 9.1 for a new personal best of 36.175 in the all-around. Coming into the night Christenson's goal was to earn All-American honors by finishing in the top 10 in a field of gymnasts who have improved dramatically since her 9th place finish three years ago. By night's end, Christenson was standing on the podium in 5th place.

Ellefson also earned All-American honors in the all-around competition by finishing in a three way tie for 8th place. This marks the first time ever that MIT has placed two gymnasts in the top 10 in the country. As a first year competitor, Ellefson's inexperience in collegiate competition was a problem. She fell off the balance beam twice which cost her one point in her all-around total. She began the meet on vault with a 9.075, followed by a new personal best on the uneven bars of 9.225. Ellefson's shaky performance on balance beam resulted in an 8.2, but she was able to pick her scores back up on the floor exercise with a 9.3, giving her a 35.80 in the all-around. Her uneven bars performance on Friday night was also good enough to qualify her for the event's final competition. On Saturday afternoon Ellefson swung one of her best routines of the year, but took an uncharacteristic stumble on her dismount and scored a 9.1 which put her in seventh place, .05 points out of sixth place and another All-American recognition. For the individual event finals, only the top six are recognized as All-Americans.

The third MIT representative was Van Buren who qualified on two events, the balance beam and the floor exercise. Her beam performance included an aerial, which she had never thrown in any previous competition. Van Buren's solid routine scored her an 8.65. On floor exercise however, she outscored both of her teammates with a career best 9.425 and she missed floor exercise finals by a mere .075.

To cap off the two day event, Christenson was named as the co-recipient of the Outstanding Senior Athlete Award. This prestigious award is voted on by the coaches every year. The award recognizes the senior who has made a career of achievements in the classroom, the gym and in her community. Christenson's award makes this the second year in a row in which the honor has gone to an MIT senior, and the fourth time since its inception in 1983.