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Gymnasts Move Up Versus Rival UMass

Women Cut Previous Loss by 14 Points

By Eduardo Ovalle
HEAD COACH

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst women’s gymnastics team marched into last Saturday’s meet at DuPont Gynmasium holding silly balloons and wearing cartoon character slippers.

The bizarre entrance was the Minutewomen’s way of paying tribute to how much fun the MIT squad has when they compete. UMass coach Dave Kuzara said that the MIT team has more fun than any other.

The day was also special for the MIT seniors, who were competing in their final home meet. To honor the seniors, they were allowed to complete last, so the lineup was very random.

Despite the fanfare, U-Mass, the sixth ranked Division I team in the region, handily beat MIT. But the Lady Engineers fared better than at a meet against UMass five years ago, where they lost by over 30 points.

This was the UMass women’s first trip ever to DuPont (their men’s team competes here often) and it was a real treat to watch 9.8s and 9.85s flying in the gym from some of their very talented gymnasts.

This time around, MIT kept UMass to within 16, scoring 174.775 to the Minutewomen’s 190.675.

MIT began the day on vault. All six vaulters performed very well including Lindsey Wolf ’03 who executed a front handspring front tuck (the most difficult vault in the MIT line-up) which garnered a 9.0. Stephanie Cheng ’00 delivered a career high 8.8 on a handspring full.

The Engineers totaled 43.375 while UMass was posting a very impressive 48.10 set on bars which included a 9.85 from former national team member Katie Teft, which deserved a score closer to a perfect 10.0.

MIT comes together on the beam

On bars, MIT’s line-up was basically in reverse order as the strongest bar worker, Sonja Ellefson ’01, led off, and again Cheng went last. Team bars were a little shaky as the team seem to be having a little too much fun and took some uncharacteristic spills. Ellefson posted a season high 9.575 and Shui followed with an 8.65 which contributed to a 40.925 event total,

In the meantime, the Minutewomen ran off a 47.175 vault set led by Teft’s layout Yurchenko vault for a 9.625.

Beam is where it all came together for MIT: Caitlin Dwyer-McNally ’03 had an early slip on her routine but got back up to nail a trick that she has been missing all year and posted her season high score with an 8.15.

Then, the beam team accomplished something that has only been done once before at MIT -- four scores of 9.1 or better. The foursome in order were Ellingson (9.1), Ellefson (9.15), Wolf (9.1), and Shui (9.15). Robin Chiu ’00 closed out the beam set with a shaky 7.2, but MIT had already totaled up its best beam effort of the year with a 44.65.

While MIT was rocking beam, UMass was putting on a show on floor scoring a 48.95 event total (out of possible 50 points) which included a pair of 9.8s by Megan Donoghue and Teft, and a 9.85 by Mandy Mosby. Lastly, on floor, MIT danced their hearts out for their seniors totaling a 45.825 event score which was closed out with an 8.25 from Chiu and a season high 9.1 from Cheng.

U-Mass, on the other hand, gave away a couple of points on beam as only two of their six competitors were able to stay on the equipment. Nevertheless, they put on quite a show and it was a great experience to have them come to MIT.

Seniors Cheng and Chiu have one last opportunity to compete at home as this year MIT is hosting the Division III Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships Saturday at 1 p.m. The meet will take place in Rockwell Cage rather than in DuPont and will display the best of Division III gymnastics in the east. This meet will determine which teams move on to the Division III Nationals Championships in Springfield, Mass., on March 24-25. As a final note, Ellefson will be defending her ECAC All-Around title which she earned last year with an ECAC record 38.125.