Top teams trouble gymnasts

This spring break, the gymnastics team finally met its match.

Until the break, the team had dominated the competition, winning five of six meets and its second Ivy Classic title in three years. But the team’s spring break trip, which included meets at Towson, Md., Washington, D.C, and Gainesville, Fla., pitted the Bulldogs against some of the best in college gymnastics. Except for the season-opening tri-meet against URI and New Hampshire, this tour was the only time the Elis competed against teams that offer full scholarships to gymnasts. Other than James Madison and William and Mary, every squad the Bulldogs faced over the break had season averages of at least 192.100, more than three points higher than Yale’s 188.575.

The Bulldogs earned results of third, fourth and third in the three meets with scores of 187.4, 188.4 and 188.625. Coming off the end of a fast-paced season and the high of winning the Ivy Classic, these meets provided a test of the team’s depth as it coped with injury and sickness.

“We had a few injuries, so we don’t have the same team back that won the Ivy League,” head coach Barbara Tonry said. “The kids were tired, so we’re trying to get some back.”

Although the Bulldogs put in more hours on the road over break than they did all season, team captain Christine Lacy ’05 said the team did not feel its effects.

“In previous years, we’ve traveled a lot more than we did this season — for the upperclassmen, it wasn’t really an issue,” Lacy said. “I don’t think that it’s really that much of a factor.”

More challenging than fatigue for the Elis was maintaining focus and avoiding injuries after a long season.

“We were coming down from a high, and the competition was so much harder than at the Ivies,” Anne McPherson ’06 explained. “We are at the end of the season — it’s pretty hard on your body. People who weren’t as fit got injured.”

At the meet in Washington, the Bulldogs fielded a makeshift lineup that saw some of the usual starters sidelined, leaving reserves to fill its positions. Sarah Peterson ’07 had a breakout performance on the uneven bars, scoring a career high of 9.7 and helping the Bulldogs to a strong 48.365 team score in the event.

Even though Yale’s average team score dropped over this stretch, Fong and McPherson maintained their high scores in bars and the all-around, respectively. They contributed their strongest performances of the break on the biggest stage, the Florida Invitational, in front of 2,000 spectators.

“We thought it was really fun, but it could be intimidating if you took it that way,” McPherson said. “They are celebrities down there — at the beginning, there is a huge light show.”

Fong earned a 9.825 on the bars, good for fourth place in a field that included the nationally ranked No. 6 Gators, while McPherson’s strong 38.375 placed her fifth in the all-around.

The Bulldogs probably will not reach the NCAA regional tournament as a team, but McPherson and Fong should make it individually — McPherson is ranked second in the all-around and Fong is ranked first in the uneven bars among gymnasts who have not already qualified for the team tournament.

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