No. 1 Baylor acro & tumbling advances to NCATA semifinals with win over No. 8 Fairmont State

No. 1 Baylor acrobatics and tumbling didn't drop a single heat in its 15.1-point win over No. 8 Fairmont State on Thursday, and the Bears increased their winning streak to 35 meets — dating back to March 27, 2021 — in the process. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Zach Babajanof-Rustrian | Sports Writer

No. 1 Baylor acrobatics and tumbling started its quest for a ninth straight NCATA national championship with a 271.170-256.070 win over No. 8 Fairmont State in the quarterfinal round on Thursday night at the Feaster Center in Fairmont, W.Va.

In the first event of the meet — the compulsory event — Baylor (9-0) started off with the early lead, as it earned a 9.675, 9.800, 9.925 and 9.100, respectively. It topped Fairmont State’s (7-3) totals of 9.075, 9.675, 9.500 and 8.375. The Bears were up 38.500 to the Falcons’ 36.625.

In the acro portion of the meet, senior base Bayley Humphrey and junior top Jordan Gruendler executed their routine “boomerang” trick, garnering a 9.925 for the Bears — the highest score of the event. Baylor maintained a 3.025-point lead over Fairmont State.

The Bears kept putting points on the board with a score of 29.300 in the pyramid event, while the Falcons totaled a 29.050. Baylor was able to boost its point advantage over Fairmont State to a total of 97.275 to 94.000 heading into halftime.

During the halftime break, head coach Felecia Mulkey told the ESPN+ broadcast that it was exciting to also be able to watch the other seven teams compete.

“This is life-changing for them,” Mulkey said. “So [the student-athletes] are getting this opportunity to compete that they didn’t have before, and it’s so much fun, and just watch the sidelines. … This is the best time of their lives. They’re not going to get it back. This is great.”

Mulkey also mentioned that the next event, the toss portion of the meet, is something that Baylor has struggled with but that she and the squad were going to execute it to the best of their ability.

The Bears were able to hover near perfect-10s, as they recorded a 9.825, 9.500 and 9.600, respectively. Mulkey said she was very proud of the team and that the group has worked hard on their execution.

“We have room for improvement — maybe not Payton [Washington in] heat one — I mean that was pretty near perfect,” Mulkey said in a post-match press conference. “But in heat two and three we can do better. … And I think you’re going to see they’ve been working really hard on that second half.”

In the tumbling event, freshman top and tumbler Payton Washington earned the highest point of the event with a 9.750 in her open pass. The team also performed a new quad pass, with that unit earning a 8.700. The Bears were up by 9.05 points on the Falcons.

In the last event, the team portion of the meet, Baylor had some struggles but was able to pull out the win, as it outscored Fairmont 88.720 to 82.670. The Bears won the meet and advanced to the semifinals by a score of 271.170 to 256.070.

Senior base Riley Chimwala said nothing brings the team closer than the pressure of being a consistent winner.

“[The team is] chaotic, like the definition of chaotic — crazy energy,” Chimwala told reporters after the meet. “But like, I mean, we can pull it together really fast. I could go over, let the chaos out and really pull it back together. So I think that’s something that’s really special that not many teams can do.”

Throughout the whole meet, Baylor had its better moments and instances that leave room for improvement, according to Mulkey. She said she was proud of the first half but that the squad could finish future matches better.

The Bears will now turn their attention to No. 4 Oregon as they face off in the semifinals of the NCATA National Championships at 6 p.m. CT on Friday at the Feaster Center in Fairmont.