By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
For the Baylor acrobatics and tumbling team, winning has become quite the habit since head coach Felicia Mulkey arrived in Waco.
On Saturday, the Bears once again proved they were the best in the land, claiming their fourth consecutive National Championship by toppling the third-seeded Quinnipiac Bobcats 283.360-274.650.
Mulkey said the work and the labor for this title began immediately following last year’s championship—and now the fruits of that labor are on full display.
“I’m just thrilled for these girls that put in all the hard work throughout the offseason and during the season and to have it pay off like this. This was our goal and here we are, accomplishing it again,” Mulkey said.
Baylor earned a spot in the title game by defeating fourth-seeded Oregon for a third time in 2018 in Friday’s semifinal meet, 281.410-277.725.
After defeating the Ducks and the Bobcats on Saturday, Baylor joins Oregon as just the second National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association (NCATA) program to win four straight National Championships and has now won 19 straight meets. The Bears also matched a program record 11 wins and are an astounding 41-1 under Mulkey.
Mulkey, who just finished her fourth straight season with Baylor, won championships all four years she was at Oregon and is the only NCATA coach to have a National Championship on her resume—now she has eight.
Baylor, which won all six events, opened with a one point victory in the compulsory event, edging Quinnipiac 38.775-37.775, as the Bears outscored the Bobcats in three of the four heats, falling by a mere quarter of a point in the toss heat.
Despite a very competitive acro event, the Bears took all three heats to increase their lead. In the pyramid event, the Bears once again claimed the inversion, synchronized and open heats to win the event and go into halftime up 97.88-96.18.
After the break, the Bears took the 450 salto and the synchronized heats in the toss event before the Bobcats edged them out to claim the open heat. Despite dropping the final heat, the Bears claimed the toss event as they headed into the tumbling event.
In tumbling, Baylor claimed the duo, the quad, the aerial and the open passes while Quinnipiac won the triple and the six element pass setting up the team event.
It was in the team event that Baylor pulled away. Despite both teams facing double-digit point deductions, Baylor had the higher difficulty routine. The Bears’ starting value was 109.01 while the Bobcats was 106.70. Baylor took the team event 98.410-93.100 to cement the championship and a remarkable legacy for its seniors.
The team, which consists of eight seniors: Allie Alaman, Madison and Merdith Aldis, Toni Bronisevsky, Jena Fisher, Molly Gibbons, Shayla Moore and Lauren Sturm won a national title every year they were on the team.
“I’m so, so proud and happy for this team, especially the seniors. Sending them out on a championship note is awesome and they completed a perfect run with four titles in four years,” Mulkey said.
Quinnipiac finished the season 7-3, with two of its losses coming to Baylor, bookending its season with losses to open and close it.
Following the meet, the NCATA announced its yearly award winners, with Baylor claiming a program record six.
Mulkey won the Coach of the Year, for the second time in her career, junior base/back base Ceara Gray claimed the Most Outstanding Player, junior top/base Kaylee Adams won Specialist of the Year and Gray and Sturm were both named NCATA All-Americans.
Baylor also won six individual national titles, as Gray, sophomore Faith Spivey, Sturm and junior Allie Steele won the seven element heat in the acro event. Alaman, Bronisevsky, freshmen Morgan Celum and Briana Harris, and Meredith Aldis claimed the toss open heat. Adams and Sturm won the tumbling duo pass; sophomore Mary Berdis, junior Ashley Echelberger and Moore won the tumbling trio pass; Bronisevsky, Harris, junior Bailey Hollier and sophomore Elise Manning took the quad pass title and Hollier won the tumbling aerial pass as well.
Baylor will look to extend its winning streak to 20 straight meets and five straight championships as it now turns its attention to the 2018-2019 season.