MIT shines at NCGAs

Three gymnasts represented MIT at this year's National Collegiate Gymnastics Championships held at Rhode Island College on Friday March 27th and Saturday March 28th. Sonja Ellefson '01, and co-captains Rachel Van Buren '99 and Alli Christenson '98 competed as individual qualifiers.

The best meet of the night was had by Alli who in her last gymnastics competion of a career that has spanned 14 years, had the meet of her life. She was the first competitor of the meet on the floor exercise and she tied her personal best score of 9.25. Vault followed with a 8.925 and then she set a new personal best on the uneven bars with an 8.9

Last event of the evening for Alli was the balance beam, and she performed a rock solid routine that earned her a 9.1 for a new personal best of 36.175 in the all-around. Coming into the night her goal was to earn all-america status by finishing in the top ten in a field of gymnasts that has improved dramatically since her sophomore year in which she finished 9th. By night's end, Alli was standing on the podium in 5th place, with a great big smile on her face and her proud parents in the stands.

Sonja also earned all-america status in the all-around competition by finishing in a three way tie for 8th place. This marks the first time ever that MIT has placed two gymnasts in the top 10 in the country. As a first-year competitior, Sonja's relative inexperience with collegiate competition was a factor, as she fell twice off the balance beam and that cost her a whole point in her all-around total. She began the meet on vault with a 9.075, followed by a new personal best on the uneven bars of 9.225. Third event was the shaky beam in which she managed an 8.2, but she picked it back up on the floor exercise with a 9.3 for a 35.80 all-around tally. Her uneven bars performance on Friday night was good enough to qualify her into the event finals competition on Saturday. Saturday afternoon she swung one of her best routines of the year, but took an uncharacteristic stumble on her dismount. The score was a 9.1, and that left her in seventh place, .05 points out of sixth place and another all-america recognition. (For the individual event finals, only the top six are recognized as all-americans). The great news for us here is that Sonja is only a freshman, and she'll be back strong.

The third MIT representative was junior Rachel Van Buren who qualified on two events, the balance beam and the floor exercise. Her beam performance included an aerial, which she had never thrown in competition before and she absolutely nailed it. Her final score of 8.65 seemed a little low for one of most solid performances of the year. On floor exercise however, she outscored both of her teammates with a career best 9.425 and she missed floor exercise finals by a mere .075.

To cap off the two day event, Alli Christenson was named as the co-recipient of the Outstanding Senior Athlete Award. This award is voted on by the coaches every year and it recognizes the senior who has made a career of achievements in the classroom, the gym and in her community. This marks the second year in a row that the award goes to an MIT senior, and the fourth time since its inception in 1983.

Special thanks to Alli's parents for making the trip from Minnesota and to Rachel's parents for flying in from Louisiana. Even though we didn't make it as a team this year, we counted with a lot of support from our teammates in the stands and the parents that came to watch. Until next year....

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