Ellefson's Record Performance Buoys Women's GymnasticsBy Eduardo Ovalle
This past Saturday the women's gymnastics team posted a season high 175.425 team total at Yale's Payne Whitney Gymnasium winning third place over two stronger Division I teams (Yale 185.125 and Northeastern 178.40). The Engineers' total was almost 6.5 points more than their previous high this season (168.95 at Texas). This team score vaults the team back into contention for a berth at the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association (Division III) Nationals. Only the top three teams from the east will qualify to the Championships in late March. Rhode Island College has already qualified by virtue of being the host.
MIT is currently ranked fifth. Rankings are determined by taking the average of the team's top four scores during the season. Prior to this meet, MIT was ranked fifth nearly two points behind fourth place. Adding Saturday's meet, MIT has moved to within 0.18 points of fourth place, and 0.78 out of third. With four competitions left in their schedule, MIT has set themselves up to make a run for a return trip to the Nationals.
Four members of the team made major changes to their bar routines, and that proved to be the major reason for the improvement. MIT had the opportunity to start on bars and display their new routines right away. The team hit for an event total of 41.9 while all six of the line-up members posted personal best scores: Stephanie Cheng '00 received a 6.9, Liz Ellingson '01 a 7.85, Rachel Van Buren '99 a 7.55, Nann Kronschnabel '00 a 8.45, Alli Christenson '98 a 8.85, and Sonja Ellefson '01 a 9.2. Bars set the tone for the entire meet, as the team went on to perform some solid vaults including Ellefson's layout tsukahara. It was the first time this move was ever tried in competition and first one ever thrown by an MIT gymnast. Even though the uneven bars event was extraordinary, it was not record breaking.
During the third rotation of the meet, MIT found themselves on the floor exercise and the team outdid their bar performances by breaking records. The floor event total was broken with a 46.425 (the previous record was 45.775) and the individual record of 9.5 held by MIT's most decorated gymnast, Sheila Rocchio '97, was tied by freshman standout Ellefson. The floor also saw great performances by Ellingson and Van Buren, both posting a 9.375, a personal best for both of them.
The meet was full of wonderful performances and strong, solid routines. In the end it was freshman Ellingson who was named "gymnast of the meet" by coach Eduardo Ovalle. Liz posted personal bests in four out of five events (bars 7.85, beam 8.85, floor 9.375), including a 34.175 in the all-around which was almost three point higher than her previous high this year. The home season competitions come to an end with this Wednesday's tri-meet against Vermont and Northeastern. With a couple of strong performances, the women gymnasts could be heading to the National Championships one more time.