With two passionate fan bases in attendance and the best two teams across the National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association (NCATA) footprint on the floor, the Baylor University Bears captured their third consecutive NCATA National Championship, 279.350-275.625, over the University of Oregon in an instant classic on Saturday night in Azusa, California.
Baylor (9-1) out-scored Oregon (8-2), 183.000-179.475 in the second half to scrape by a determined Ducks team, who won the acro and toss heats. However, victories by Baylor in compulsory, pyramid and a 1.125-point margin in the tumbling event proved to be the difference heading into the team event. Baylor head coach Felecia Mulkey wins her seventh consecutive national championship with the victory, the first four coming in Eugene, Oregon before capturing the last three at Baylor.
Fueled by a raucous crowd representing both the Bears and Ducks, the two teams took to the floor for the compulsory event. Baylor opened the evening with a 9.90 in compulsory pyramid and a 9.80 in compulsory toss, but Oregon came storming back with a 9.80 or higher in each of the final three heats of compulsory, capping the event with a 9.90 in toss to reduce the Baylor lead to 38.20-38.10 after one event.
The Ducks harnessed the momentum from the end of compulsory in the acro event, scoring 9.75's in both five- and seven-element acro to win the event, 29.10-28.95, and take a 0.05 lead into pyramid. Baylor took the lead back heading into halftime with a 0.3-point swing in the inverted pyramid, heading into the break with a 96.40-96.15 advantage.
In toss, Oregon's 9.55 in the salto and 9.50 in the open propelled the Ducks to a 28.35-28.00 event victory. However, the Baylor tumblers took control of the meet in the penultimate event, anchored three critical passes; a 9.725 in aerial by sophomore Kaylee Adams, a 9.875 from junior and 2017 All-American Lauren Sturm in the six-element, and a 9.850 in the open by senior and NCATA Most Outstanding Player Kiara Nowlin. Oregon All-Americans Taylor Galvin and Krista Phillips kept the Ducks within striking distance with identical, 9.850 scores in the six-element and open pass, respectively.
The historic three-peat was completed in the team event, where Baylor scored a postseason-high 97.65 score to edge Oregon, who concluded its 8-2 season with a 94.90 in the team event.