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The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Acrobatics and tumbling claims two individual national championships

Ben Kane
Quinnipiac’s open pyramid group poses after winning an NCATA individual national championship on April 28.

FAIRMONT, W. Va. — Acrobatics and tumbling isn’t an ordinary sport. It requires a level of tenacity and skill that not many have.

It’s also swept under the table — wobbling rather than standing on two legs, dismissed and overlooked by college athletics since its inaugural 2010 season. 

Yet more than anything, the emerging NCAA sport is about unity. 

For the women whose competitive cheerleading careers ended in high school, for burnt-out gymnasts seeking something new — there’s still a place for them on the mats.

“(Acrobatics and tumbling) was held back for a really long time,” Quinnipiac head coach Mary Ann Powers said Thursday. “You had six founding institutions, Quinnipiac being one, that decided, you know what, we are missing four million opportunities to give women opportunities at the collegiate level. To take kids from diving, weightlifting, competitive cheer and gymnastics and make it something very special and create those opportunities that would never exist.” 

On Sunday, the Bobcats were more than reassured that they had found their place — still on the mats, this time holding hardware. 

The Bobcats qualified for nine individual events in the NCATA National Championship, clinching two.

Graduate student base Bri Marks, senior bases Kaya Clark and Tiffany Zieba, junior bases Hallie Fowler and Madison Aiello and junior top Alyssa Dillon collected the open heat of the pyramid event with a score of 9.90. 

“(I’m) really proud of my pyramid group and all the work that we put into this year and it’s really rewarding to walk away with the national championship,” Clark said.

Senior base Summer Knoell received a 9.85 to take the six-element tumbling event, becoming a three-time NCATA national champion in her tenure at Quinnipiac.

Senior base Summer Knoell celebrates after winning an NCATA national championship in the six-element tumbling event on April 28. (Ben Kane)

“This team was a dream team,” head coach Mary Ann Power said. “They were a dream team for so many other teams.”

Sure, maybe a couple more events could have belonged to the Bobcats. But not every landing was crisp, not every element was perfectly sound. They knew it, the judges knew it. 

And it constantly looked like someone had twisted a knife in Quinnipiac’s back every time its name wasn’t called.

But beyond their disappointment, the Bobcats held onto each other and wore brave faces. There’s a reason most of life’s lessons are about togetherness and finding one’s way — because everyone needs other people, and everyone needs a purpose. 

For some, acrobatics and tumbling provide both.

“I came from gymnastics and cheerleading, and you know, gymnastics wasn’t always something I wanted to do in college,” Knoell said Thursday. “Neither was cheerleading, but I knew I wanted to be an athlete still and I found the sport of acrobatics and tumbling and I found Quinnipiac. It’s opened a door for me that I will forever be so thankful for to be a student athlete, even though I’m not doing gymnastics or cheerleading like I once did. It has really been an amazing opportunity.”

With 54 NCATA programs as of 2024, acrobatics and tumbling continues to hand out those opportunities. In 15 years, the sport has swept the country and given thousands of young women a purpose as college athletes.

“It’s incredible, you know, we only compete against six teams, and sometimes we go against one of those teams twice,” Knoell said. “So we don’t normally get to see all these people all year long and to have all the support of hundreds of girls around you is really powerful. And I think as a woman in women’s sports, it’s just super inspiring.”

It didn’t matter what uniform athletes wore on Sunday — from Oregon’s neon yellow and green, Quinnipiac’s navy and gold or Limestone’s blue and white — the young women on the floor roared for whoever was competing as if it were their own teammates. 

Because when all is said and done, a trophy is merely a perk. It’s the surge of unwavering support that stays with someone forever.

“Oh, you know, I think our sport is, it’s just so spirited,” Powers said. “It’s just kind of unselfish for the most part. It’s unselfish.”


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Amanda Dronzek
Amanda Dronzek, Sports Editor

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