By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer
Baylor’s national championship in men’s basketball has certainly been the Baylor sporting event on everyone’s mind, but the school might not be done winning titles this year. The acrobatics and tumbling team is getting set for a run at their sixth consecutive national title, facing off with storied rival and national No. 3 team Oregon.
Baylor has seen the Ducks two other times this year, but that familiarity doesn’t make things any easier.
“We had some things we could clean up from the last time we saw Oregon,” head coach Felecia Mulkey said. “So we’ve been doing that, and thankfully, we’re getting to a point in the year where we can really pinpoint things and work on it. So, for us, we’ve just spent the last six or seven practices cleaning things up where we could.”
Even in a sport where the teams never make contact, COVID-19 has still made its presence felt. This year’s national championship proceedings, to be held in Waco, will feature only four teams instead of the usual eight. Despite the differences, the team is still aiming to compete as if nothing’s changed.
“Every year we come in with the mindset of just executing from day one,” Mulkey said. “Typically, there’s that extra meet on the front end where you can kind of get the lay of the land, and get a feel for the officials and things like that. The officiating is relatively consistent across the country, but the panels are different from time to time. That’s the only thing is that you’ve got to go in and execute right out of the gate.”
Baylor is 1-1 this season against the Ducks. Their most recent meeting was April 10, one the Bears would win by four points. On the season, Baylor is 4-1, leaving them in a comfortable position amongst the nation’s top four teams. Baylor and Oregon are joined in the championship meet by No. 1 Azusa Pacific and No. 4 Hawai’i Pacific. The Bears and Ducks fill in the two and three spots, respectively. With just four teams left, it’s tough to point out any real weaknesses. Even still, Baylor has worked to make sure they’re as ready as they can be to face off with the best competition available.
“We’re not executing [in the toss] the way we usually can and we know we can,” Mulkey said. “What we’re going after, we know that we’re a second half team, so we’ve really been working on that first half to make sure that everything there is super clean. Over the past week and a half — that toss event, and cleaning up our group tumbling passes, we think that we can really make an impact there.”
The national championship will get going on at 2 p.m., with Azusa Pacific and Hawai’i Pacific, followed by Baylor and Oregon at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Both meets, as well as the final, will be held at the Ferrell Center.