Bulldogs face nation’s best in NCAA Regionals

With one of the most successful seasons in Yale gymnastics history behind them, Kathryn Fong ’05 and Anne McPherson ’06 tried their luck against the best in the country.

On Saturday, Fong and McPherson traveled to the NCAA Regional Championships at the University of New Hampshire to compete in their signature events, the uneven bars and all-around, respectively. Fong, consistently the Bulldogs’ top performer on the bars, scored 9.325 at the Regionals to finish 35th out of a field of 42, while McPherson, who was named the ECAC Athlete of the Week on March 2, put together a 36.900 to finish last in the all-around.

Both Elis qualified for the championships by finishing the season with averages in their events that were in the top three in the region among gymnasts whose teams did not qualify for the Regionals.

The Bulldog standouts faced the toughest competition they’d seen all year, from the Arkansas, Oklahoma, UNH, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and LSU squads and a few individual gymnasts. All of those teams have been ranked higher than Yale all season, and LSU, Arkansas and Oklahoma are all ranked within the top 15 teams nationally. No. 3 LSU, the eventual winner, took every event except the balance beam on the way to a dominating 197.125 team score.

Fighting the fatigue that accompanies a long season, both Fong and McPherson earned scores that were below their season averages of 9.790 and 37.675.

“I think that having this meet happen so late in the season definitely took a toll — I know my body is pretty run down,” Fong said. “It’s hard to maintain the kind of intensity and caliber of gymnastics that we had at Ivies all the way through to now. I think that definitely played a factor.”

McPherson said she was also feeling worn out.

“My body felt really tired since it’s the end of season,” she said. “At the end of floor routine my legs kind of locked up.”

Many of the top gymnastics schools have a training schedule designed to peak their athletes for this meet, so many of the gymnasts Fong and McPherson competed with had more left in the tank. Other factors that contributed to the lower scores were the stricter judging and higher standards at the event.

Many of the athletes competing at this meet had the potential to be national champions — LSU earned winning scores of 9.975 in floor, 39.575 in all-around, and 9.95 in vault and bars. Individual competitors like Fong and McPherson had to wait to perform until after all of the gymnasts representing teams completed their routines. Since teams generally put their best performer last, the Bulldog duo always had tough acts to follow.

McPherson and Fong said that they felt they could complete skills similar to the scholarship gymnasts, but admitted that they could not execute at their level.

“Skill-wise, they did not necessarily have that much harder elements,” Fong said. “They were sticklers for stuck landings, straight legs and pointed toes — the little things cost a lot more, and these girls don’t make mistakes.”

Comments