Nothing lasts forever — and the Yale gymnastics team proved that Saturday when it beat perennial gymnastics powerhouse Towson University for the first time.
The Bulldogs broke numerous school records with the 194.8-193.125 home victory, improving to 6-2. The 194.8 was more than a point higher than the team’s previous record high score of 193.775 set last year.
Kathryn Fong ’05 had Yale’s best all-around score ever in the meet, a 39.35, tying for second place on floor with a 9.95 and tying for third in vault with 9.70. Fong also took second place on bars (9.875) and beam (9.825).
Yale captain Shoshanna Engel ’03 said that while Fong’s performance was superb, it was truly a team victory.
“Kathryn Fong definitely won the meet,” Engel said. “But no one can be singled out for what we did. The definition of a team effort is what we did Saturday. On each event every single person put up an amazing routine.”
The teamwork the Elis put in was evident in the fact that even though no Yale competitor won any of the four events outright, the points still favored the Bulldogs in the end.
Engel said that the victory meant a lot for the Bulldogs.
“We’re setting the bar very high for ourselves,” Engel said. “This weekend was about us — we just went out there and hit our routines. There was an insane amount of energy in that gym yesterday.”
Engel said that record-breaking was nothing new for the Elis.
“Every year that I’ve been at Yale we’ve shattered our previous year’s record,” Engel said. “It says a lot about the direction this team is going. Each year we go along and it is an upward slope of quality and potential.”
Leeron Avnery ’06 said she thought that attitude and the support of the home crowd helped the Bulldogs.
“I think Towson came in with the attitude that they were going to win easily because they had been averaging like five points higher than us,” Avnery said. “We just went out there knowing that we wanted to have fun and take advantage of the home meet atmosphere, and that’s how we won.”
In gymnastics, it is high scores, not the win-loss record, that count for national ranking and postseason qualification. As of Jan. 27, the highest-ranked team in the country (the University of Utah) was 1-2. Going into the Towson meet, only 15 teams in the country had a higher average score than Yale’s eventual score of 194.8. Although the score against Towson was more than six points higher than Yale’s previous average of 189.450, the Elis have a chance of qualifying for the NCAA regional championship if they continue to score so well.
Avnery said that this weekend’s outing was no fluke.
“I think we can consistently score around 192 or 193 consistently if we all hit our routines,” Avnery said.
Engel said she was incredibly pleased with the score.
“To score something like that for Yale is huge,” Engel said, “In the Ivy League that’s huge and even in the ECAC it’s huge. It’s just awesome.”
If the Bulldogs can continue to score in the 192-194 range, they have a chance at qualifying for the NCAA regional, in which 36 teams participate. To qualify for the regionals, the top six scores are averaged and the top score discounted. The teams with the highest averages move on to the six NCAA regional competitions. The winners of the regionals and the next six teams by score qualify for the national championships.
Lisa Naito ’05 expressed hopes that such great performances would become the norm for Yale gymnastics, especially in next weekend’s home meet against Brown and the University of Rhode Island.
“Hopefully we’ll make our score next week as well,” Naito said. “As long as we hit our events, we will get good scores like that. It was totally a confidence booster to beat Towson.”
Yale competes with Towson again on Feb. 16 at the 18th annual Towson Invitational in Towson, Md.
Engel said she was excited about seeing the Tigers again.
“I think they will be preparing even more knowing that we beat them this weekend,” Engel said. “I definitely feel that going against a team like Towson at home not only encourages us but also raises the bar for the rest of our meets at home. We’re on a roll.”
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