By Kaitlyn DeHaven | Digital Managing Editor
Baylor’s acrobatics and tumbling team will open its 2019 season with a meet against West Liberty at noon Sunday in West Liberty, W. Va.
Each of the last four years, the team has claimed the National Championship. This year is already starting on a high note as they were ranked No. 1 in the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Preseason Coaches Poll on Jan. 30.
Senior Ceara Gray, a returning All-American and winner of the NCATA Most Outstanding Player award last year, said she contributes much of the team’s success to the drive and support they share.
“One of our biggest things is never settling,” Gray said. “Our goal is to get better every year, not just for this program, but for the sport in general.”
Senior Hope Bravo, who placed sixth in tumbling at the 2018 Trampoline World Championships in November and helped USA place fourth, said the competition within the team is healthy and pushes them to be the best they can be.
“It’s a team dynamic,” Bravo said. “We strive to be the best in whatever we do, and we don’t think about the trophy. We’re pushing each other to be the best we can be. It’s a good competition.”
Head coach Felecia Mulkey said this competition has been beneficial to the team in that the team members are always motivated to get on the floor. She said that keeping constant communication with all members of the team is vital.
“It’s a constant competition to get on the floor,” Mulkey said. “We start talking about it early on so that it’s a healthy competition and they know what’s expected of them.”
About half of the team is new this year, bringing in lots of opportunity for new talent. Mulkey said one of the things she’s most excited for is seeing the freshmen experience collegiate competition.
“I’m excited for them to get to experience it,” Mulkey said. “I’m excited for them to get a taste of it. They’ll fall in love.”
Gray said that as a seasoned competitor, she’s excited to be able to pour into the freshmen who haven’t had the chance to compete on a collegiate level yet.
“We are laying the foundation for this sport. We are pioneers,” Gray said. “We have to tell them that this isn’t just about them. This is about this program. This is about your team.”
The National Championship will be held in April at Baylor this year, and Mulkey said she and the team are excited to be at home for the championship.
“There’s really nothing like the Baylor fan base – especially now,” Mulkey said. “I’m thrilled to have the championship here.”