Three-time National Champions know how to win and have fun
(Photo: Eric Evans)
By UO student Chelsea Fullmer
The UO Acrobatics & Tumbling team continues its dominating success as the season rounds the midway point, and the team hopes to finish the season strong while continuing to have fun.
Undergoing a name change from “stunts and gymnastics” to Acrobatics & Tumbling, the 2010-2011 team brought home the first national championship for competing in acrobatics and tumbling meets only. (Previously, the team had also participated in cheerleading competitions).
Five seniors who were part of that original team—Kelsey Leslie from Aliso Viego, California, Erin Block from Midlothian, Virginia, McKenzie Wilcox from Salem, Oregon, Natasha Katzaroff from Anaheim Hills, California, and Zakia Houston from San Jose, California—hope to round out their undergraduate years with another victory. All of the girls were recruited by Coach Felecia Mulkey primarily through competitive cheerleading gyms. Most of the girls didn’t know what to expect when hearing about the emerging UO A&T team.
(Photo: Nate Barrett)
Natasha Katzaroff remembers that first national championship win against University of Maryland in 2011.
“We won by one-tenth of a point. It was the most insane win. And for that to be the first national championship win ever,” Katzaroff says.
Even with a national championship, and then another, and then another, the Ducks remained the underdog.
Felecia Mulkey says the team had to change its competitive mindset, focusing more on the team. “Maryland was by far more talented than we were person by person, but we had the better team,” she says.
The National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association has seen the number of competing schools more than double since 2011 and continues to grow.
“I literally had no idea where Oregon was on a map,” admits Erin Block. Thinking she’d never visit Oregon otherwise, Block decided to take Coach Mulkey up on her offer for a recruiting trip. After visiting campus and meeting the team, Block changed her initial thoughts on attending the UO.
“On the plane ride home, I told my mom that I wanted to go to school here. It is really homey and friendly,” says Block of both the school and the state.
Kelsey Leslie had similar impressions of the UO after her recruiting trip. “I just loved the campus, the atmosphere is really nice, and everyone is welcoming and friendly here”
The girls were also drawn in by the team itself. “I just remember sitting there on the floor watching the practice next to my dad and I was like ‘I want to be here so badly, I need to be here. Every girl on this team is just like me, this is where I want to be.’ I was completely sold. I was astonished at how talented they were and how much hard workers they were,” said Katzaroff.
The seniors have not only enjoyed the team’s successes but have enjoyed making life-long friends in the process. “Just being able to be around your best friends every single day is what I’ll miss,” said McKenzie Wilcox.
“This team is so laid back,” said Coach Mulkey. “They are the best when they are laughing and smiling.”
The Acrobatics & Tumbling team will take on Fairmount State in West Virginia on Monday, March 24. For a complete schedule, visit GoDucks.com.