Story by Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer, Video by Elisabeth Tharp | Broadcast Sports Director
No.1 Baylor acrobatics and tumbling clinched their fifth consecutive NCATA National Championship and 30-meet win streak after defeating No. 2 Oregon 278.400-271.725 on Saturday at the Ferrell Center.
The championship win marks the 26th matchup between the two teams, including the fourth time Baylor has come out with the title in the finals. Coach Felecia Mulkey’s team finished the season undefeated with a program-record 12 wins.
The meet was close throughout the night. Oregon outscored Baylor in the tumbling heat in the compulsory (8.675-8.500), open pyramid (9.90-9.85) and the open toss (9.800-9.775).
It wasn’t until the tumbling event that Baylor pulled through and created a gap. The Ducks’ score suffered from a drop in the quad pass as the Bears were close to perfect, scoring 9.225 to 7.725. Mulkey said the drop gave them an advantage.
“They made an uncharacteristic mistake and dropped one of their tumbling passes which helped us out quite a bit,” Mulkey said. “They opened the door pretty wide. Tumbling has been our strength. We knew if we could stay on our feet and stay on the mat, that we could pull ahead quite a bit right there.”
The mistakes continued for the Ducks afterward, as another fall occurred in the team event. Although there were two mistakes in the last two events, Mulkey made sure it didn’t get to her teams’ head.
“I’m glad I saw it because I pulled my team in. They were already doing it, but I pulled the team and told them, ‘You have not won this yet,’” Mulkey said. “That wasn’t an automatic win for us. If we didn’t execute, we could’ve been in the same shape […] For us when we see that, it’s like, okay don’t let your guard down, you gotta stay on it and execute.”
With the fifth championship under the Bears’ belt and as the season comes to a wrap, it also calls for goodbyes to some seniors, including Hope Bravo, Ashley Echelberger and Kaylee Adams.
Senior top Ashley Echelberger finished the season as the NCATA Most Outstanding Athlete along with four other seniors claiming the NCATA All-Americans title.
Adams said it was something she’ll remember forever.
”It was an incredible experience you know, an experience of a lifetime,” Adams said. “I got the feeling right after the pass, or right before I was tearing up because it’s the last one ever, right? So you know, I cried there then I felt it a lot when I finished the toss and the team event. My teammates just squeezed me so tight.”
Echelberger agreed, saying the team was the most memorable to her.
“I definitely thought we got the feeling,” Echelberger said. “The team event was amazing. I would love to do it again. It was just amazing with my teammate and a great national championship.