As New Haven residents waited for the thrum of music and the thrill of high-flying athletes to fill the John J. Lee Amphitheater this Saturday, the Yale gymnastics team was giving a strong performance that combined both elements on the road.

Yale placed fourth with a score of 189.650 at the University of Rhode Island Invitational. Although only five teams competed there, the Bulldogs’ low finish belied a highly competitive score that promises good fortune two weeks from now at the Ivy Classic in Providence, R.I., against the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell and Brown.

“Even though it was an off meet for a lot of people, and in a team sport that can hurt you a lot, we still pulled off a 189, which is not an absurdly low score. In fact, it was less than two points out of second place,” said Caroline Pignatelli ’02, Yale’s captain.

Pignatelli’s delicate and gutsy 9.750 performance on the balance beam was the highest score of her Yale career, and tied her with teammate Kathryn Fong ’05 for eighth place in the event at URI.

North Carolina State University won the meet with a 194.600 overall score. URI placed second, and Brown surprised everyone with a third-place effort that saw three Bears launch themselves into the top three slots of the all-around standings.

“We had no idea they were even competitive,” Pignatelli said.

Nevertheless, Yale was only eight-tenths of a point behind the Bears when the curtains closed.

Because gymnastics is a most exacting sport, the slightest displacement of toe and finger muscles can send you from first to fourth in an instant. It can also land you on the sidelines.

Freshman starlet Christine Lacy, who contributed an electrifying floor exercise to Yale’s extremely competitive meet against URI on Feb. 2, sprained her ankle in practice and did not compete this time around.

“There were good moments in this meet, especially when people stepped up and performed knowing that Christine would not be competing,” said Pignatelli.

Waverly Dolaman ’04 was one such savior under pressure. She secured a 9.750 in the floor exercise and came in eighth out of 30 competitors.

Fong placed third in the all-around rankings with 37.975 out of a possible 40 points. Fong has been adamant this year about Yale’s ability to compete with the top teams in the nation, even those that give athletic scholarships.

Pignatelli agreed, adding that this year’s team is the best she’s been a part of in her four seasons of Yale gymnastics. But she also indicated that Yale’s vast potential has overshadowed any real results this season.

“It is frustrating [to finish fourth] because we really are as good as the other teams,” Pignatelli said. “We have one more rehearsal [this weekend’s Towson Invitational] before our big performance at the Ivy championships. It just hasn’t come together for us yet; what we need to do now is get back in the gym and work harder.”