By Maleesa Johnson
Energy levels were high as the Baylor Acrobatics and Tumbling team won its first meet of the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association season against Azusa Pacific.
The first half of the meet featured three events, each with multiple heats.
The three events were compulsories, acro heat and pyramid heat. There were 10 total heats from all three events combined.
The meet started out with rapid performances from both teams for the compulsory event.
As the first half progressed, Azusa Pacific pulled ahead. Baylor head coach LaPrise Harris-Williams did not allow the team to be distracted.
“I just told them that the meet was not over and not to worry,” Harris-Williams said. “The girls stayed focused and I am really proud of them for that.”
After halftime, the team came back with energy.
The first event of the second half, the toss event, started out cleanly for both teams.
The Bears began to gain momentum as they outscored Azusa in two of the three heats.
As the second event began, the crowd joined the team with loud cheers.
The excitement was evident. The Bears’ performance caused the excitement to increase as freshman back spot Amanda Graceffa and sophomore flyer Stephanie Rudzitis executed a perfectly synchronized tumbling pass.
“The highlight was coming back after tumbling when we found out we outscored them.” Junior back spot Hailey Cowan said.
In the double heat for the tumbling event, the Bears earned a score of 9.0 to Azusa’s 8.4.
The triple tumbling pass, performed by Cowan, freshman base Courtney Pate, and senior flyer/base Stephanie Bohmler also helped boost Baylor’s score as they earned a 9.1 compared to Azusa’s 8.5.
“I’d say making a comeback and pulling together as a team was really the best part,” junior base Tori Jackson said. “We all have to remember it’s a long meet and not to judge by the initial scores. You don’t lose in the first half.”
As the sixth and final event of the meet approached, it was clear that the Bears had made a significant comeback.
This event was a team event in which a minimum of 18 athletes must perform a synchronized two-and-a-half minute routine.
At this point, the Bears were only one tenth of a point behind Azusa.
Azusa performed its routine first and had two falls in an otherwise clean performance.
The Bears approached the floor with anticipation.
The starting value of their routine was high and, if well executed, could earn Baylor the win for the meet.
They performed it well with only minor faults. During the dance routine at the end of the event, some athletes looked close to tears with excitement.
After ending the event, the team jumped, clapped and screamed.
A few minutes later, their hopes were confirmed as the scores showed they had beat Azusa 266.84-265.75.
“The girls yelling from the side really help push us through,” Cowan said. “I know this sounds crazy, but when you’re out there, you can hear yourself breathing and it’s scary. When the girls all cheer, it blocks that out.”
The Bears are traveling to Eugene, Ore., this weekend to compete against the Oregon Ducks on Saturday. Oregon is the reigning NCATA Champion and opened its season with a 276.790-272.240 win over Azusa Pacific.
In reference to the season ahead of them, Harris-WIlliams’ goal is to keep the team focused.
“We are not going to look ahead to future meets,” Harris-Williams said. “We are staying focused and going meet by meet.”