EUGENE, Ore. — The University of Oregon is blazing the path for a new NCAA women’s sport.
Oregon launched its acrobatics and tumbling team four years ago. The team earned the 2012 championship title, and it’s ready to bring home the title again.
Two days a week during season, 35 women on the Oregon Acrobatics and Tumbling Team weight train. Four days a week, they set up a 42 x 54 foot mat at Moshofsky Center and put their strength into action.
Overseeing the program is Head Coach Felecia Mulkey. Five years ago, Mulkey started recruiting players, including Samantha Shultz who’s now a senior.
“When I came in my freshmen year, it was the beginning of it and we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Shultz said.
Acrobats and Tumbling counts for Title IX numbers. This season, Oregon competes against four other college teams. Eight are expected to compete next year as the sport picks up momentum.
The UO officially submitted a proposal to the NCAA to sanction acrobatics and tumbling.
For those who’ve never been to a meet at Matthew Knight Arena, here’s what to watch for: action, speed, precision, strength, agility and teamwork.
“We are not the same as an artistic gymnastics team, who uses a spring floor and a vault and the bars. We compete on a mat that’s out on the basketball court. It’s a head-to-head competition,” Mulkey said.
It starts with a compulsory event. Teams perform the same synchronized sequences. Very similar to gymnastics or diving, points are deducted for execution errors like form breaks and toes not pointed.
Then there’s acro, pyramid, toss and tumbling events. Players perform optional sequences, each given a difficulty value, and they’re scored based on execution. Finally, there’s the team event. Twenty-four team members hit the floor for a two-minute routine set to music. It’s like fireworks.
Two years in a row, Oregon has won the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association Championship.
The team’s season-opener is Saturday, March 2. Oregon will take on Baylor. It’s happening at 2 p.m. Matthew Knight Arena. Tickets are still available.