By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer
Baylor acrobatics and tumbling has earned a shot at their second consecutive NCATA national championship, and their sixth overall, beating Oregon 281.865-276.810 in the semifinal meet.
This was Baylor’s third time facing off with the Ducks and their biggest win in any of the three matches. With the victory, Baylor has earned its shot at No. 1 Azusa Pacific on Friday in the title meet. However, the win wasn’t the only thing worth celebrating on Thursday.
The NCATA presented several Baylor athletes with awards, including three All-American selections. Junior Maddie McNamee was given the Louise Goodrum Academic Award, and Emily Tobin, Riley Chimwala and Kam Kitchens were all named to the All-American team. Baylor wasn’t done there, though, as Chimwala took home the Freshman of the Year honor and Tobin was named Most Outstanding Athlete. Tobin and Chimwala have been key to Baylor’s success this season, as Tobin has averaged a 9.80 or better in four different heats this season, and Chimwala has been a part of five perfect scores for the Bears.
On the whole, Baylor got a strong performance from multiple portions of the meet. Head coach Felecia Mulkey feels like her team is capable of more but was still happy with the perseverance they showed against a talented Oregon group.
“I am beyond proud of my team,” Mulkey said. “This was not our best day and I think they would agree with me, but we stepped up when we needed to step up. We had some mishaps in toss and didn’t even have the best tumbling that we usually have, but I’m just really proud of them keeping calm and cool, while going out there and working together. I’m so proud of this group and there’s still room for improvement going into the championship.”
Baylor got their lead early, eking out an edge in the compulsory event. Baylor took the opening portion 38.825-38.625. They wouldn’t look back either. Baylor never trailed in the meet, and their confidence showed. The Bears were incredibly consistent across the board, hitting 9.900 or higher on multiple occasions. Baylor would drop only one event, the toss. While the toss has been a weak point for Baylor throughout the season, Oregon was only able to gain half a point on the Bears.
Baylor’s biggest point of separation came in the team event, the last of the match. Oregon’s performance was strong, but a drop at a critical juncture caused the Ducks to lose substantial points. The mistake clearly shook up a couple of Oregon’s athletes, as there were some stumbles in the subsequent parts of the event. Baylor would have no such issues. The Bears’ team routine went off without a hitch, and the score reflected it. Baylor’s 96.990 in the team portion blew away Oregon’s 92.960. While four points may not sound like a lot, in a match between two of the sport’s best teams, it’s about as far apart as you can get.
The win moves Mulkey to 16-2 all time against Oregon, her former school. Having now beaten the Ducks twice in two weeks, Mulkey still feels like Baylor’s best performance is ahead of them.
“My goal is always to peak at the right time,” Mulkey said. “We have not peaked yet, so we hope to see that this week.”
The Bears have less than 24 hours to get their minds on Azusa Pacific, the nation’s No. 1 team. Baylor will throw down with the Cougars on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Ferrell Center. Putting the two best teams in the country on the same mat will no doubt make for some must-watch competition.