Fresh from a victory over Temple and flushed from high scores in recent weeks, the Yale gymnastics team will travel to Ithaca, N.Y. this weekend to defend its Ivy title in the 28th annual Ivy Classic.
The University of Pennsylvania currently leads the four Ivy League schools that offer gymnastics in both league competition and average score. But the Elis, who edged Penn 192.3-192.0 last year for the championship, are confident that they can retain the title.
“We’re definitely, I think, the best in the Ivy League,” Yale captain Jamie Green ’04 said. “We just have to go there and make our routine. We have the ability to win.”
Despite Yale’s narrow victory at the Ivy championships last season, Penn defeated Yale 190.05-188.65 early this winter. But, much has changed since January.
Suchitra Paul ’07 said that the Elis are a much better team than they were a month ago.
“There’s a better team morale,” Paul said. “We’ve had a bunch of really tough opponents, and we’ve done pretty well against them. Our strength and endurance have improved. Physically we’re better, and mentally we are a lot better.”
But the Quakers continue to create doubts about the possibility of a Yale victory. Penn squashed Cornell Feb. 21 in Ithaca, scoring a season-high 193.575.
Leeron Avnery ’06 argued that Penn’s success would only help the Bulldogs.
“The fact that Penn scored high this week is just going to push us to train harder and to perform in the meet this weekend,” Avnery said.
All four Ivy League schools with gymnastics programs have been scoring similarly. Penn has a league-leading regional qualifying average of 190.840, but Cornell (189.605), and Yale (189.410) are both within a point and a half, and Brown lags behind with an average of 188.235.
Green said that while the team would try to focus on its own performance, she realized that Penn was the team to beat.
“We’re not really focusing on how the other teams are doing because we can’t really change it,” Green said. “We realize that Penn will most likely be our biggest competition, but we’re still trying to focus on our own job.”
In addition, the regional qualifying averages, which are used to calculate whether or not a team qualifies for the NCAA Regional Championships, drop the highest score and may not paint a full picture of a team’s athletic ability.
Green is quick to mention that Yale has consistently improved over the course of the season. The Bulldogs lost six seniors to graduation last May and were hampered by injuries early this winter. But with a healthier lineup and the infusion of promising freshmen, the Elis have not scored lower than 191.250 in almost a month.
Paul said that the Bulldog’s improvements gave them a great shot at the Ivy crown.
“With each meet we keep getting more confident and better,” Paul said. “I think we have a really good chance of winning this year.”
The Bulldogs have another consideration going into Sunday’s matchup; Avnery, Green, and Kathryn Fong ’05 were all major forces at last years classic and will be competing again. The pressure is on.
But Green said that a relaxed, poised attitude could bring the Elis their 14th Ivy title.
“We need to keep our heads together at the meet, have fun, and not put too much pressure on ourselves,” Green said.