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Gymnasts Show Early Promise

By Eduardo Ovalle

TEAM COACH

Being an athlete at MIT is not an easy thing, and if your sport happens to be gymnastics, it is even more challenging. Regardless of talent, gymnastics requires something that all MIT students do not have much of -- time.

MIT’s gymnasts spent as much time as schoolwork allowed to get ready for their opening meet of the season against Southern Connecticut State University. However, most of the team did not feel quite prepared enough for this meet; the Owls, a Division II team, have always been a stronger team than the Engineers, and this year was no different. SCSU won the meet 180.85-169.125.

However, several MIT gymnasts turned in solid performances. Amy M. Shui ’02 had a solid meet in the all-around with a 33.70 total. With a reborn commitment to swinging bars, Shui will once again be a key contributor and one of the most consistent gymnasts that MIT has ever seen. In her 31st meet for MIT, Shui fell off beam for only the 2nd time on something other than her handspring-handspring series. Shui has also consistently hit her vaults and floor routines throughout her MIT career.

Freshmen start out strong

Shui has been invaluable to the team over the years and her experience and performance will provide great leadership for MIT’s three freshmen all-arounders. Merritt S. Tam ’05, Ashley R. Rothenberg ’05, and Whitney E. Watson ’05 not only debuted in the all-around for MIT, but they anchored the vault and floor line-up as well.

All three performed flipping vaults, and although they are still a week or two away from feeling confident about their vaults, each performed better on the vault than they have so far this year. On floor, Watson scored a 9.1 with a brand new routine, while Tam earned a 9.55 for a routine she has performed since before coming to MIT. Rothenberg struggled a bit with a new, difficult routine, but nailed her first-ever double-back mount. The floor exercise also saw solid routines from Cecile E. LeCocq ’02, Tanya I. Burka ’03.

The bars usually require the most effort for improvement, and a new set of rule changes have made the event even more difficult this year. Nevertheless, the bar team scored 40.55 total, only one tenth lower than MIT’s high score on this event for all of last year.

Burka put a routine together just in time for the meet and scored a 7.8, her highest since coming to MIT. The team high came from Tam, who posted an 8.75.

The team posted a 41.90 on the beam, but only Watson and Tam were able to stay on the apparatus. First meet jitters usually get the best of everyone, but these gymnasts should settle down and get comfortable with their routines soon enough.

Team heads away this week

In true MIT fashion, the schedule for the upcoming week does not allow time for the gymnasts to train to improve their routines. The engineers head back to the competition floor at Brown tonight, followed by back-to-back meets in Pennsylvania, first at Ursinus College on Friday night and at Wilson College on Saturday afternoon.

The next home meet will be Saturday, Feb. 2, against a much-improved Division III opponent, SUNY-Brockport, and Division II University of Bridgeport. If the team survives the next three meets, they will be in good shape to compete down the stretch as the season progresses. The return of Cindy Chung ’04 from a sprained ankle could have a huge impact on the team.