GYMNASTICS | Individual bests not enough to overcome injuries

The Yale gymnastics team continued to face difficulties Saturday at the Fox Run Invitational as injuries forced the Elis to enter only four competitors in three of the four events — a marked disadvantage in a sport where five scores are totaled to calculate the team score. The Bulldogs placed fourth out of four this weekend, but had, according to captain Alina Liao ’09, their “best meet yet.”

Previously this season, the Bulldogs have competed with five gymnasts in each event — a total still lower than the optimal six. Usually teams enter six gymnasts in each event, and only the top five scores are counted toward the team total. By fielding only four gymnasts in three events this weekend, Yale had no chance of competing with the deeper rosters of Air Force, the University of Bridgeport or the University of New Hampshire.

They did, however, stand strong individually.

“The last thing I wanted was for everyone to just give up,” Liao said. “I wanted to remind the team that by giving solid performances as individuals we could still represent Yale gymnastics with pride.”

The Bulldogs earned a total of 157.500 points. UNH won the competition with 194.875, rival Bridgeport had 189.400, and Air Force finished with 187.800. Despite UNH sweeping all events, Liao placed first in the all-around with a career-high point total of 38.725. Allison Mak ’10 also had a career-high all-around finish of 37.55.

Both Sherry Yang ’11 and Brigitte Kivisto ’10, who are normally staples in the lineup, were not cleared for competition because of injuries. The team is hoping both will be healed for next weekend’s meet.

“I felt a bit guilty,” Yang said. “I was not allowed to compete because of two bilateral fractures, but I am cleared to compete for next week. We pieced together whatever we had. The people who did compete did a great job individually.”

Tatsuno added, “It’s going to be a tough season staying healthy. It just so happened that this past week, there were just things that came up.”

Competition began on beam — Tatsuno tied for third place with a 9.75. Liao followed closely behind with a 9.725 and fifth place. Mak and Sarah Hughes ’09 completed the Elis’ team of four with a 9.25 and 8.975, respectively. It was Hughes’ first beam competition in college.

“Sarah was first up on beam, our first event, and she handled herself beautifully,” Liao said.

On the vault, only three of the usual Bulldog lineup competed. Mak, Liao and Tatsuno each had a strong showing with a 9.45, 9.525 and 9.6, respectively. Tatsuno placed eighth in the event, out of 22. Hughes, who scored an 8.3 on vault, had her first collegiate performances on both vault and beam.

The Elis posted five competitors on bars. Hughes led off with an 8.05. Margaret Greenberg ’12 and Claude de Jocas ’12 followed with an 8.65 and 8.85, respectively. With a 9.45, Mak scored a career high. Liao placed sixth with a 9.675.

The same four competed in floor. Mak’s 9.4 led off the Eli charge. Hughes and Tatsuno followed with a 9.35 and a strong 9.725, respectively. Tatsuno’s score earned her ninth place. Liao ended her day with a 9.8 and fourth place.

“I had probably my best meet of the season,” Tatsuno said. “We did so well with what we had at the meet. It’s kind of sad to look at the final score and not be able to see that.”

Liao’s 38.725 won the all-around and was a career high. Mak’s 37.55 was also a career-high finish. Hughes, who competed in the all-around for the first time for Yale, totaled a 34.675.

“As captain I’ve been asking everyone else to work on improving and taking their performances to the next level,” Liao said. “I had to hold myself to the same standards.”

Next weekend, the Bulldogs will compete in Payne Whitney Gymnasium in their second and final home meet of the season. Competition at the John J. Lee Amphitheater begins Saturday at 1 p.m. against Southern Connecticut State University.

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