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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Acrobatics and tumbling remains in national spotlight, hopes to take next jump despite key losses

Jack Muscatello
Senior top Lyndsey Rudolph flips in the air during a meet against Kutztown on Feb. 11, 2023.

Acrobatics and tumbling may be one of the newest sports at Quinnipiac, but its history is as storied as one of the most successful teams on campus.

Head coach Mary Ann Powers is entering her 27th year at Quinnipiac, and she’s built quite the program. Her teams have been nationally ranked in the top 10 since 2005, and she was one of the founding coaches of the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association.

To say Powers is a pioneer of the sport is an understatement. She, along with the other founding members of the NCATA, shaped a new form of competitive gymnastics that prioritized strength, grace and perfection while also revamping the scoring system.

“We created a code of points, just like in gymnastics,” Powers said. “Back in the day … you kind of had to guess who won. Now we have start values based on difficulty (of the trick being performed), and what we take away is execution errors.”

Since the sport is more recent compared to traditional forms of gymnastics, coaches find talent for acrobatics and tumbling just about anywhere, from traditional individual gymnasts, divers or even lifters.

“I did gymnastics my entire life,” junior base Hallie Fowler said. “For a few years I did artistic acrobatic gymnastics, and that gave me kind of an insight into lifting people, and being part of a team rather than an individualized sport like (traditional) gymnastics.”

Acrobatics and tumbling is unique because there’s nothing inherently combative about it. There’s no contact, so teams often compete for self-improvement rather than overpowering opponents.

“The skills are pretty apples to apples, especially in the top five,” senior back base Chloe White said. “It’s really the execution, I think, that we excel at in comparison to other schools. Not that it matters, because we’re comparing it to ourselves.”

When it comes to expectations for their 2024 campaign, the Bobcats have their eyes set on a championship run. They won four individual national titles last season, but it wasn’t enough to get them over the hump past Baylor. In the last three full seasons, Quinnipiac lost to the Bears in the NCATA semifinals twice, both within a margin of less than 10 points. However, Powers is confident that her team can stay strong in mind and body.

“I think this year it could be the game of any of the top five, they’re all that strong,” Powers said. “Right now we want to get a little healthier, we’ve had some ankle issues this year. You want to accumulate all these wins in the season, but the biggest one is when you go into the postseason really healthy. That’s what the goal is.”

A big question going into this year is which athletes will take a big leap. Three out of the four national titles Quinnipiac won last year were in tumbling, and all of the women involved in those events have graduated. When it comes to those that will take their place, Powers praised athletes who also participated in title-winning events like the senior trio of bases Farrah Chernov, Summer Knoell and top Lyndsey Rudolph in the inversion pyramid.

Senior tumbler Tiffany Zieba already showcased her talent in the Bobcats’ first meet of the year against Morgan State, where she had the highest score in the tumbling event. Powers anticipates that freshman Jadyn Wong will make an immediate impact as well.

Aside from individuals, Powers has high expectations for the athletes in team events.

“I feel like my acro seven has the potential for a national championship,” Powers said. “Just watch (the) acro seven (event against Morgan State), the thing didn’t budge, it was beautiful.”

Receiving national attention is promising for the program, but Powers wants the support of the Quinnipiac community as well.

“Tell them to come out and watch us. Have a good day with us,” Powers said. “Watch the women on this campus. I’m gonna say this about my team and I mean it: they are so invested in the community. I would love to see everybody give us a little love back and get out here to a meet.”

Acrobatics and tumbling’s home opener is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. against LIU.

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Jack Muscatello
Jack Muscatello, Digital Managing Editor

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