Diana Walters ’16 launches into the air, flips and sticks the landing, beaming as her teammates mob her and the crowd erupts.
It was a scene that seemed to repeat itself with each Bruno performance in the packed Pizzitola Center Sunday as the Bears ran away from the field at the Ivy Classic with a season-high 193.375 to capture their second consecutive Ivy League championship.
The dominant team display was highlighted by Walters’ first-place finish in the individual all-around competition. The talented sophomore followed one personal best with another, setting career highs in every event to amass a 39.000 all-around score.
But Walters’ routines were not the only fireworks from the Bears. Michelle Shnayder ’14, last year’s Ivy all-around champion, wrapped up her impressive record at the Ivy Classic with a third-place finish in the all-around. Close behind Shnayder, but on the other end of her collegiate career, Caroline Morant ’17 continued her remarkable first-year campaign by winning the vault and finishing fourth in the all-around.
“It was truly a group effort,” said Rebecca Freedman ’14. “As a senior captain, I could not have asked for a better way to leave a legacy.”
Bruno’s day opened on the bars, where Walters led the squad with a second-place 9.775. Bar specialists Alexandra Chretien ’16 and Tori Kinamon ’16 buoyed the Brown total, Chretien matching Walter’s score and Kinamon on their heels with a 9.770.
After the first session — Brown on the bars, Cornell on the floor — the Big Red held to a slim lead over the Bears, but by the end of the second events, Bruno had opened up a lead that would only widen as the day went on.
When the squad moved to the floor for its third event, the crowd at Pizzitola was treated to a display of near-perfection. Danielle Hoffman ’15 wowed the audience with a 9.925 routine. The only Brown gymnast ever to earn a total that high was world champion and Olympic silver medalist Alicia Sacramone. Hoffman’s brilliance powered her squad to a 49.125 team score on floor, a program record. All six Bears that competed in the floor exercises set personal records for the event. Shnayder’s 9.875 earned her runner-up status.
Walters said the Hoffman routine was the most electric moment of the day. She added that only after the team’s historic floor performance did the team really begin to realize it was going to repeat their Ivy win.
To ice the cake, Brown posted the top four scores on the vault as Morant and Walters tied for the crown with twin 9.725 scores. Shnayder and classmate Freedman followed the duo in third and fourth, respectively.
The vault success propelled Bruno to a massive 3.150-point advantage in team points. Yale, Penn and Cornell finished two, three and four, all within 0.225 points of each other.
Throughout the day, the Bears received a significant lift from the home crowd as sign-waving and chanting followed every Bruno move. Energy built through the floor and vault sessions as any doubt about whether the Bears would retain the title evaporated.
“It always helps when you have a big fan base,” Walters said. “When they were loud, it was really fun.”
Entering the meet, Brown’s season high, 192.825, and team average, 191.770, made the reigning champs favorites, but the squad committed to keeping their emotions in check early in the contest.
“Everyone was really pumped up about this one, having won last year,” Walters said of their pre-meet huddle. “But we were all trying to stay calm and do what we do everyday in practice.”
But as the repeat materialized, the excitement began to take hold. The Bears flooded the podium for the trophy presentation, claiming the first Ivy title for a Brown varsity sports team since their win last year.
“The entire meet was emotionally draining — from the cheering to the tears — because we wanted to win back-to-back Ivy championships so badly,” Freedman said. “There’s nothing sweeter than a repeater.”