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Gymnasts Place Last at ECACs

By J.C. Olsson

MIT hosted for the first time the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference gymnastics championships in DuPont on Friday and Saturday. A joint effort between the men’s team and the athletics department, the undertaking not only placed MIT on the map, but allowed the Engineers to face their rival teams on home territory.

Aside from an evening of non-stop technical difficulties, the Engineers performed no worse than expected on the apparatus; still, no other teams performed worse than the Engineers.

Teams from ten schools populated the revamped DuPont arena, including the title-winning Temple University and runners up Army and William and Mary.

It was expected the MIT boys would know how to handle, if not their own bodies, at least their computers and a microphone amplifier. This proved to be an egregious misconception, as staccato microphone signals and screeching feedback plagued the opening ceremonies. “Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise,” noted the Springfield trainer, as MIT coach Noah Riskin’s opening, ambling dialogue was cut short.

The MIT Engineers actually led the meet through the first three rotations until Reuben M. Sterling ’03, author of the computer scoring system, looked at the running tally and, in a distressed manner, asked, “What are we doing in the lead?”

The handspring front-flip, MIT’s deadly weapon on the vault event, proved a difficult beast to tame. Sterling and Zach M. Eisenstat ’06, having traded good and bad vaults over the season, deduced through 6.041 logic that this meet would witness their combined victory. However, as Professor Tsitsiklis will explain, Sterling overrotating and Eisenstat underrotating does not average out.

Parallel bars saw some solid routines from the Engineers. The highlight was Damian M. Engen ’03 in the team competition on Friday and in event finals on Saturday, where an 8.3 and 8.35 earned him fourth place on the event and made him the first male MIT gymnast to medal in ECACs.

The highbar event over two days of competition grew increasingly hard to remain in contact with, as gymnasts from other teams were flung off like some kind of spandex rodeo. MIT, by rarely including any “release elements,” saw their routines through to the end. The judges, bred with some kind of macabre fancy for difficult and dangerous skills, found little reason to reward the engineers with many points. The rest of us, however, will not forget breathtaking pirouettes performed by David Yin ’03 and Cameron Sadegh ’06.

On the floor exercise the Engineers really put out some strong routines. David Yin, to the amazement of the team, judges, and himself, opened his floor set with a 1 1/2-twisting front flip. After his routine was over he proceeded to watch the video tape of his first pass at least 62 times, giggling gleefully after each one. Engen’s floor routine was also solid, including his crowd-pleasing double front salto, a skill he’s become known for. The big mystery of the floor rotation was Eisentat’s peculiar corner move in which, after a big preparation, he just kind of jumped all crooked-like onto his face.

Overall the Engineers had a very good competition to end their year with. This season was tough, with a much smaller lineup than prior years, forcing many of the athletes to compete on more events than their specialties, and athletes without any specialties to compete on events. The team will also miss the graduating seniors Engen, Yin and Sterling, as their contributions to the team extend way beyond their event scores. However, the show is not yet over for Engen, who still has a final hurrah at nationals in Texas later this month.