In other sports, there are pick-up games. You can kick a soccer ball around, throw a football, swim, or even play some polo after college.
Gymnasts have it tougher. There is no such thing as a spontaneous gymnastics competition. For most college gymnasts, commencement means the end of almost 20 years of beam, bars, vault and floor.
The 2003 Yale gymnastics team knows this better than most.
“For as long as I can remember, I have had gymnastics in my life,” Andrea Wolf ’03 said. “There were 15-20 hours of training a week, practices, meets; it has been a very important part of my life. I’m definitely glad that it’s ending on a positive note.”
This year’s team was the most successful in program history. The girls won the Ivy League championship for the 13th time in 27 years and placed second in the ECAC championship meet.
“We were able to do a lot of things together as a team, like win the Ivies,” Lara Flath ’03 said. “That was really exciting. It was a little bit bittersweet that we didn’t win ECACs, but we made it all worthwhile by pulling out a great meet in the end. Our class has really cared about the program, and it’s really come a long way since we’ve started as freshmen.”
The Elis broke numerous records. Some records fell twice, such as high team meet score. The Bulldogs beat the perennially powerful Towson University Tigers for the first time in program history, and they beat the University of Rhode Island for the first and second times ever, once at home and once on the road.
Yale would not have gone too far this winter without the strong leadership of the seniors setting the tone for talented underclassmen.
“They definitely led the team: they were very strong leaders, they were motivational, and they were always there for the underclassmen,” Leeron Avnery ’06 said.
Jamie Green ’04 qualified for the NCAA regional championship in floor and Kathryn Fong ’05 qualified in the all-around. Avnery was an alternate in the all-around and Andrea Wolf ’03 was an alternate in bars. Green and Fong will compete at the University of Michigan Saturday for a chance to travel to the national championship at the University of Nebraska April 24 to 26.
Six of the 2003 team’s 15 members are seniors: Flath, Wolf, Shoshanna Engel ’03, Jennifer Gold ’03, Fateema Turay ’03, and Carolyn Wright ’03.
“The six will be a big loss,” coach Barbara Tonry said. “That team won the Ivy championship two of their four years, and they will be sorely missed.”
Tonry said the fact that graduation means the end of gymnastics is sad but allows gymnasts to pursue other interests and sports.
“There is no place for them to go and compete,” Tonry said. “Sometimes there are senior meets in some states, but it’s really too difficult to stay up with because you need a facility and you need coaching and you need time. It is too bad, but it gives them incentive to do something else, which is good. It really gives you a good basis to do other things.”
Engel, who was the team’s 2003 captain despite a debilitating injury, said she was happy to leave on a positive note.
“All of us are excited that we are going out on top and had our last meet beat the school record,” Engel said. “We made it through all four years together in a big class, which is awesome. I feel fabulous about the future of this team. I feel like every year the talent rises, and we are going in the right direction.”
Flath said life without gymnastics would be odd, but that the Yale program had made gymnastics a team sport for her.
“It’ll be very strange [without gymnastics],” Flath said. “We have all be doing it for at least 13 years. Gymnastics is a unique sport; it is a very individual sport, but coming to Yale and being part of the team has really made a difference for me — made it more of a team thing.”
Wolf also said it would be a strange transition, and a bittersweet one.
“I don’t know how it could have ended better. But I’ll definitely miss it at the same time,” Wolf said.