Gymnasts edge Bears in home swan song

Although the Bulldogs reached perhaps the most emotional day of their season, the gymnastics team did anything but lose its focus in front of an adoring home crowd — one Yalie even came away with a victory over a World Champion.

After a disappointing finish at last week’s Ivy Classic, the team triumphed against Brown, 188.800 to 185.825, at the last home meet of the season. The Bulldogs led the Bears for the entire meet, and the seniors ended their careers at John J. Lee Amphitheater on a strong note.

The team started out with solid performances on the vault — the Bulldogs secured the second through eighth place spots, with Miki Seltzer ’09 (9.55) leading the way for Yale in second place and Alina Liao ’09 (9.5) right behind. Brown’s Alicia Sacramone, who placed second in this event at the 2006 World Championships, finished first with a 9.825.

Last week, the Bulldogs experienced a domino effect on the beam, with one fall leading off a series of mishaps. This week, a more typical culprit — the uneven bars — was the biggest source of frustration. Despite a good warm-up session beforehand and solid routines in competition last week, the team had to count three falls on bars, the event that it has been struggling with for most of the season.

But after a disappointing rotation on bars, the team made a strong comeback on beam. Five of the gymnasts hit solid routines, and the team did not have to count any falls.

“Beam was really great, especially since we bounced back after bars,” captain Sarah Peterson ’07 said. “It showed that we’re a strong team mentally.”

For its last rotation, the team capped off a solid day with the floor routine, which is usually one of its stronger events. The Bulldogs’ impressive performances were highlighted by a 9.725 from Seltzer, who beat out Sacramone, the 2005 World Champion in the same event. Liao, who posted consistently high scores throughout the meet, scored a 9.7 and tied with Sacramone on floor.

“For the last two meets, my floor routine had been off, so my main goal was to hit my routine cleanly,” Seltzer said. “I wasn’t expecting huge scores because the judging was really high, but I’m proud of the outcome.”

Following the meet, a ceremony was held to honor the five seniors — Jessica Blick, Suchitra Paul, Jessica Tai, Seltzer and Peterson. Each senior was called up one by one as her accomplishments, such as school records and ECAC Scholar-Athlete titles, were announced in front of family and friends. After the ceremony, the Bulldogs had an autograph-signing session on the concourse for kids who came in to watch their performances.

“The ceremony was very bittersweet because it was nice to honored, but also sad because we had to say goodbye to four years,” Peterson said. “We all really appreciated it, and the autograph session at the end for the little kids was really fun too.”

Despite the significance of the last home meet, team members said they do not want to get too bogged down by their memories and accomplishments on their own turf. The team will be focusing on keeping up endurance, improving consistency and cleaning up landings to maximize their team scores in the remaining three regular season meets before the ECAC Championships.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet because we still have four more meets,” Tai said. “We still have to keep going with practices and competitions, but it was really sad to compete at home for the last time.”

Although the Ivy Classic and the last home meet are over, the team must continue earning high team scores in order to raise its regional qualifying score (RQS), which is an average of team scores to date. Their RQS will determine the Bulldogs’ rotation at the ECAC Championships, set to take place at the end of the month in Ithaca, N.Y.

The team will be traveling to Maryland to compete against the Tigers of Towson University this weekend.

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