In a big weekend for Cornell athletics, the Red’s gymnastic team was able to secure its second ECAC title in school history on Sunday.
It was a weekend of many victories for the entire team: freshman Lyanda Dudley was named ECAC Rookie of the Year and fellow freshman Kaitlin Green won Specialist of the Year. Aside from the players, the coaches also won top awards with Melanie Dilliplane earning Assistant Coach of the Year and Paul Beckwith garnering his second Coach of the Year award.
In the team’s championship drive, the Red came up .100 points shy of beating the school record the women set earlier this year. Dudley and Green were both major contributors. Dudley tied for first on beams and was fourth in the all around. Green tied for first on the bars.
Cornell beat out fellow Ivy league competitors Brown, Yale and Penn on its way to victory in Virginia. It was a big win for a program that was already having an amazing year, according to Dilliplane.
“Saturday’s championship was a nail biter until the very end,” Dilliplane said. “All of the ECAC teams are very closely matched which we’ve seen all season long. The team did a fantastic job of staying focused even though they could see the scoreboard and knew how close it was heading into the last event.”
Freshman Malia Mackey said the moment when the team clinched the victory was unbelievable.
“It was such an exciting meet,” said freshman Malia Mackey, who tied for second on vault in this weekend’s historic victory. “The feeling was indescribable, when Lyanda, our last person up, nailed her routine we knew we had done it. We looked to each other and saw tears in everyone’s eyes as we jumped up and down. [It] was incredible to say the least.”
This meet was all about execution for the team who was well aware of their chance to make history, according to Mackey. She said that the team trailed Brown late in the meet, but ended up overcoming the deficit.
“Going into the competition, we knew we had a chance, but we also knew that we had to hit to do it,” Mackey said. “The turning point of the meet was really going into it confident in each other and ourselves … Lyanda’s floor [routine] ended up being the final deciding factor. We knew that if she hit, we’d win, and if she didn’t, we wouldn’t. When she landed her last pass we were screaming, jumping up and down and saw the tears in everyone’s eyes.”
Championship season is not over for the Red as the women will look to continue their dominant season in April.
“Overall, it was a superb meet. We had our second highest score of the year, set a new team beam record and officially have our highest Regional Qualifying score in school history,” Dilliplane said. “Kaitlin Green has qualified as an individual to the NCAA Regional Championships at the University of Michigan on April 1through 3 and then we have qualified as a team to the USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Championships being held at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri on April 8 through 106.”
Mackey said even after earning the conference championship crown, the team is still hungry to continue its winning ways.
“Now we have our sights set on nationals in a couple weeks,” Mackey said. “With some solid performances under our belts, we’re ready to get back into the gym and keep up the energy and momentum. We are cherishing every last moment with our seniors, and are ready to finish the season strong.”