MIT Gymnastics Team Pulls Last-Minute WinBy Caitlin L. Murray
The MIT women’s gymnastics team eked out an amazing last-minute win against Springfield College on Saturday. After early mistakes on the vault and bars, the Engineers fought tooth-and-nail with superb performances on the vault and floor exercises. By the end, they had registered the second-best performance in the history of MIT women’s gymnastics.
The odds were against the Engineers going into Saturday’s competition. The team is half the size of the Springfield Pride. Captain Whitney E. Watson G has been sidelined with a rib injury since last spring. Sophia L. Harrison ’08 has a torn tricep, and Francesca E. DeMeo ’06 has a fractured wrist. Yet Harrison and DeMeo still competed in events, with routines choreographed around their injuries.
With this meet, the Engineers recorded their second win in a row. The team is eight out of sixteen in the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association. But the Engineers are pulling themselves together as they head toward the post-season. This meet marked DeMeo’s and Harrison’s returns, and Watson was back with an exhibition floor routine.
After the opening rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, sung by Assistant Coach Eduardo Ovalle, the Engineers began the meet on vault, while the Pride took to the uneven bars. The Engineers opened with the simplest vaults, landing scores of 8.25 and 8.65, and worked up to a vault by Ashley T. Tran ’07 to close the event with a 9.325.
While Springfield moved to the vault, where they scored just .025 points more than the Engineers, MIT moved to the uneven bars. The Pride had set the bar high, with an average score of 9.13. The Engineers were not able to meet that, but they kept the match competitive with good showings by Tran, Merritt S. Tam ’05, and Sarah N. Trowbridge ’08. By the end of the first half, the Engineers were losing by .875 points.
MIT started the second half on the balance beam and nailed five out of six of their performances, with an average score of 9.275, an eighth of a point higher than the Springfield average. Harrison opened the event with an 8.975 on her first beam routine in collegiate gymnastics.
The beam routines marked the return of DeMeo, who came from the disabled list and performed despite a fractured wrist, using a carefully choreographed routine that allowed her to compete without placing her hand on the beam. In spite of her injury, DeMeo placed third all-around on the beam, second among the Engineers to only Tam. Tam landed a 9.45, while Trowbridge landed a 9.35, putting them both in good standing for the individuals.
Going into the final round, the Engineers needed solid performances in their floor routines to maintain their lead. MIT began with Lara L. Hershcovitch ’07, who performed to music from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and landed a safe but solid routine for a 9.125 to set the stage for the Engineers. Tran came next, landing a 9.55, followed by Trowbridge with a 9.450. Jennifer E. Sauchuk ’06 continued the rally with a 9.575, and Chandler E. Hatton ’06 bumped up the average again with an impressive 9.600.
Meanwhile, the Pride had put up good performances on the beam, so the weight of the meet fell onto the shoulders of Tam. She rose to the occasion, performing to the music from Tarzan, posting a 9.700, the highest score of the meet, securing victory for MIT.
On top of the Engineers’ overall victory, Tam, Trowbridge, and Tran secured the first, third, and fourth spots in the individual rankings. Tam now holds the MIT records for uneven bars and balance beam. Tran took fourth because of a scary fall off the beam, but she escaped unharmed.