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Best ECAC Finish Ever Vaults Women...s Gymnastics to NCGA...s

By Jennifer Miller-McEachern

In perhaps one of the most hotly contested East Coast Athletic Conference/NCGA East Regional Championships in the history of Division III Gymnastics, with just 2.15 points separating first and fourth place, the MIT women’s gymnastic team finished third for their best ECAC finish ever and first team qualification to the NCGA Nationals since 1997.

Heading into the meet, Ithaca, Springfield, MIT and SUNY-Brockport held the top four ranks in the conference, and most felt that they would come out of the meet as the top four as well. Ithaca was favored to win, but the order of the other three places was anyone’s guess. The SUNY-Brockport team closed the meet on bars with MIT’s fate in their very capable hands. The highlight of the competition for MIT was the team effort of 46.175 on bars, which made for the meet high and a new school record. Senior co-captain Francesca E. DeMeo scored a career-best 9.450, also a meet high and MIT record.

Tech began the day on floor and Lara L. Hershcovitch ’07 led off with a clean routine to set the table with an 8.40. DeMeo, Jenn E. Sauchuk ’06 and Julia C. Zimmerman ’09 followed with clean hits as they posted a 9.325, 9.375 and a 9.60 respectively. Sophia L. Harrison ’08 closed out floor with a 9.15.

On vault, the line-up of Rachel E. Tatem ’09, Sauchuk, Sarah N. Trowbridge ’08, Alison M. Barnard ’09, Zimmerman and Harrison combined for a season-best 46.20.

The running total after two events was Ithaca 93.35, MIT 92.45, Brockport 91.725 and Springfield 91.175. As MIT waited for its turn on bars, the team witnessed Springfield falter a little (44.475) and open up an opportunity; MIT capitalized with perhaps the best six bar routines ever put together by the school.

Barnard led off with a very clean 8.775 and Trowbridge put up a career best 9.10. Her routine energized the entire team and was a catalyst for the next four competitors. Zimmerman followed with a 9.30 and Harrison topped her with a beautiful 9.425. DeMeo put the icing on the cake with a personal best 9.45, which landed her in second place for individual overall. The total score of 46.175 was a meet high and new school record on bars for MIT.

The momentum created on bars carried over to the last apparatus, the beam, but although MIT hoped to do better than its 45.025, the team’s work was done and the only thing it could do was wait.

Springfield finished with a total of 182.075, behind MIT’s 183.650. Unfortunately for MIT, Ursinus College had been working quietly all day and scored a total of 183.725, putting them ahead of MIT. Ithaca finished the meet on beam and took first with 184.225.

So, for MIT, it all came down to whether Brockport, finishing on bars, would grab the final slot for Nationals. One gymnast at a time, Brockport hit each bar routine starting with an 8.70, 8.75 and 8.775. Regional leader on bars Sarah Bulka would need 9.65 or less for MIT to advance.

Bulka swung a beautiful routine to send the level of suspense through the roof, and when her 9.55 came up, MIT coaches breathed a sigh of relief.

Final scores were Ithaca; 184.225, Ursinus; 183.725, MIT; 183.650, Brockport; 183.550, Springfield; 182.075, Cortland; 179.575, Rhode Island College; 178.925 and Wilson College; 165.25.

Harrison took 3rd in the individuals all-around with 37.50, DeMeo finished 2nd on uneven bars. Zimmerman, with 5th on an all-around 36.75 and 2nd on floor exercise, was voted ECAC Freshman Gymnast of the Year by coaches.

The MIT Women’s gymnasts will end their season among the top 7 best teams in Division III who will gather in Brockport, NY on March 24th and 25th for the 2006 edition of the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association National Championships.