No. 1 Baylor acro & tumbling outlasts No. 3 Gannon for 9th straight NCATA national championship

With the win, No. 1 Baylor acrobatics and tumbling extends its win streak to 38 meets in a row, dating back to 2021. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Zach Babajanof-Rustrian | Sports Writer

No. 1 Baylor acrobatics and tumbling secured its ninth straight NCATA national championship, as it defeated No. 3 Gannon by a score of 272.220 to 269.315 on Saturday night at the Feaster Center in Fairmont, W.Va.

Head coach Felecia Mulkey tabbed her 13th national championship and ninth championship with Baylor (11-0). The Bears also won the championship in the same venue as the first time they brought hardware back to Waco in 2015.

In a post-meet press conference, Mulkey said she was proud of her team and that the squad worked hard to earn the victory.

“Today was a battle,” Mulkey said. “We knew it was going to be a battle against Gannon. I knew they were the best matchup for us. I have known it all year, and they really kept us on our toes, and it really could have gone either way.”

In the first event of the night, compulsory, Baylor scored 9.625, 9.800, 9.925 and 8.925. The Golden Knights (8-3) scored 9.575, 9.750, 9.850 and 8.675. Baylor was up by 0.425 going into the second event.

In the acro portion of the meet, the Bears scored a total of 29.600, with senior base Bayley Humphrey and junior top Jordan Gruendler earning the highest points of the night in heat three with 9.975. The Golden Knights scored a total of 29.175 and were down to the Bears 67.875 to 67.025.

During the pyramid event, Baylor was able to attain 9.975, 9.725 and 9.825. Gannon scored 9.675, 9.775 and 9.900, taking the win in heat two and three of the event. Baylor was up by 1.025 going into halftime.

During the break, Mulkey told the ESPN+ broadcast that the squad was prepared for the three-day weekend and that the team’s practices are harder than the actual meets.

“It’s more about just that emotional fatigue when you go up and down,” Mulkey said. “You have to get up for a meet and then you have to go down. So we’ve been working on just relaxing when we’re not here, taking it easy so we can turn it on when it’s time to turn it on.”

During the toss event, the Bears scored a total of 29.050. The Golden Knights scored a total of 28.800 and defeated the Bears in heat three. The Bears were up 126.450 to 125.175.

In the tumbling portion of the meet, freshmen tops and tumblers Payton Washington and Emily Bott contributed the two highest scores with a 9.675 and a 9.900. The Bears kept their lead going into the final event, up by 3.225.

In the final event of the night, team, Gannon was able to outscore Baylor, earning an 89.090, while Baylor earned an 88.770. However, it wasn’t enough for Gannon to defeat the reigning champions, with Baylor winning 272.220 to 269.315.

Mulkey told reporters after the match that the strategy for the meet was to build up the lead and to execute throughout the whole meet so they could stave off a comeback.

Mulkey added that she’ll miss the leadership aspect of the senior class. Mulkey said the class was made of unselfish leaders who were content with letting others shine.

Senior base Riley Chimwala echoed Mulkey’s sentiments.

“[The team is] honestly just like a group of friends,” Chimwala said in the press conference. “We can tell each other stuff how it is, and then we can grab each other and be like, ‘It’s OK.’

“So I think just remembering that everything is built off of love, and the love we have for each other makes it [to where] it doesn’t matter who’s talking or who’s not talking, we’re going to get it done today.”

Senior tumbler Kristen McCain also said watching the team’s journey every single week has been fun and that she’s proud to have been a part of it.

Despite winning her 13th national title, Mulkey said she knows someone is going to surpass her one day, because the sport has just started and will continue to grow. Mulkey also said it’s lonely at the top, but she would rather be up there defending the championship than climbing up the mountain to gain it again.

“I just love the journey every year,” Mulkey said. “And I will keep doing it over and over because I just love the journey, and I love watching humans come in and come together, and I’m weird about it. I love all their little personalities and how they can get them to peak at the right time.”

Mulkey added that she isn’t solely responsible for all the success.

“I have an amazing staff, amazing group of people,” Mulkey said. “And I’m blessed to be here. So I’m not the GOAT; I’ve just been surrounded by [other] GOATs.”