No. 1 Baylor acro & tumbling to take it ‘one day at a time’ at NCATA Championships

No. 1 Baylor acrobatics and tumbling will face No. 8 Fairmont State for the second season in a row in the quarterfinals, and it marks the sixth all-time meeting in postseason play. Camie Jobe | Photographer

By Zach Babajanof-Rustrian | Sports Writer

No. 1 Baylor acrobatics and tumbling will look toward securing its ninth straight NCATA National Championship with a “one day at a time” approach. The Bears open the postseason tournament with No. 8 Fairmont State in the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Feaster Center in Fairmont, W.Va.

Head coach Felecia Mulkey said the team is rejuvenated and excited going into the weekend. The Bears haven’t competed since a 274.915-266.595 win at No. 4 Oregon on April 5.

“They’ve been ready to go for a little bit,” Mulkey said. “One day at a time, I think is what we’re following. And then just letting the weekend unfold the way that it does and not setting unrealistic expectations on ourselves or on our team, trusting our training and just letting the weekend unfold.”

With the gap of time between the win over No. 4 Oregon and the championships, Mulkey said she didn’t think the team was championship-ready before Oregon but that there has been improvement since then that she is happy with.

“What we did filling the gap is basically going back in on things that we did not make adjustments on [and] just increasing execution and raising that level of execution on everything,” Mulkey said. “So for us, it was just continuing to rep things to make sure that every day, we could be a little better. I think mentally, we were ready to compete, [and] physically, we’re about to peak at the right time.”

Mulkey said the “one day at a time” mindset is important because it keeps the team present for the task at hand. She said it’s the best way for the Bears (8-0) to not focus on the fact that they have won eight-straight NCATA championships or that they haven’t lost a match since 2021 (35 straight victories).

“My prediction is that we [win it all] again this year, and the icing on the cake will be the trophy,” Mulkey said. “And then we’ll celebrate. They’ll celebrate for longer than I will. I’ll celebrate for about 10 minutes, and then I’ll start getting ready for next year.

“But it really is about just the journey and being able to start over, build on what you have, but also allowing the team to start over and grow as a team.”

Senior base Bayley Humphrey said this is her favorite part of the year because the team gets to show all of its hard work and how it has come together. Humphrey, a two time NCATA All-American, has been part of three national championship rosters.

“Now it’s time to go out there and hit it,” Humphrey said. “And yes, this is my fourth nationals, but it’s been four different teams because [it’s] not the same people. And [with] this team, it’s always so special. And I’m so excited to take them out with these girls and to peak at the right time and turn the corner with them.”

The days start to count down for the seniors on the roster, as it’s win-or-go-home at this time of the year. Mulkey said she is still in denial about the seniors having to move on and that she will accept it once they don’t show up in August.

“They’re just a really special class,” Mulkey said. “And they are the ones who basically brought us out of COVID. We try not to think about it, but COVID was terrible in their freshman year. They started practicing in these tiny little groups.

“I think this senior class is going to be remembered for a lot of things, but one of them will simply be leading us out of COVID, continuing to change the game. And then I believe really being great leaders who are always loud, but their actions are allowed, and that’s really made a huge difference in our program and set the stage for the program moving forward.”

Mulkey said Humphrey and senior base Riley Chimwala have especially changed the game. Because of what they brought to the team, she said more programs are going to try and replicate what those two have accomplished and that they have raised the bar for the sport.

The championship is taking place in Fairmont, and it marks a significant place for Baylor, as the Bears won their first championship there. Baylor took down Oregon in 2015, Mulkey’s first year, to secure the first of eight straight.

“I don’t think I’ve been back in this gym since we won 10 years ago, so this will be the first time back, [and] I’m excited,” Mulkey said. “They have a great fanbase here. It’s going to be fun.”

The Bears will face No. 8 Fairmont State (7-2) at 6 p.m. in the quarterfinals in the Feaster Center in Fairmont.