After a shaky beginning on crucial balance-beam routines, the Yale gymnastics team managed to repair some of its pride, but it could not recover enough points to successfully defend its Ivy League title Sunday in Providence, Rhode Island.

Before this year’s Ivy Classic was through, the defending Ivy champion Bulldogs had handed their trophy over to Cornell’s Big Red and fallen to third in the Ivy league before the crowd in Brown’s Pizzitola Athletic Center.

The Big Red set a new school record with its score of 189.800 and won the team’s first Ivy Classic since 1988. Brown, the Classic’s host, edged out Yale by less that one-fifth of a point for second place; the Bears posted 188.175 points to Yale’s 188.000.

The University of Pennsylvania, once Yale’s biggest threat among its Ivy peers, lagged behind with 183.625 points, good enough for last.

“Before this meet began, I would have said that the Yale-Penn rivalry was still hot,” Penn coach Tom Kovic said. “But the title’s got to move around, and I think Cornell’s win today is a tribute to the Ivy League and what we stand for. These are true student-athletes.”

But Yale coach Barbara Tonry, who founded Bulldog gymnastics in 1977, did not agree that the Ivy title was meant to change hands this year.

“I really don’t know what happened. We are the best team of the four teams here, and the only one with a shot at making regionals,” she said. “We were just scared to death on that balance beam.”

Yale rocked the vault, where Jamie Green ’04 became the event’s Ivy champion with a 9.750 high-flying flip. Christine Lacy ’05 placed second with a 9.700. And Carolyn Wright ’03, Andrea Wolf ’04, Kathryn Fong ’05, and Bulldog captain Caroline Pignatelli ’02 contributed to Yale’s event-winning score of 48.150.

Wolf even placed second overall in the Ivy Classic all-around with a score of 38.100 out of a 40.000 possible points.

But these bright moments, and other flashes of Yale’s promise, would not be enough to mend an opening beam rotation that both Tonry and Pignatelli dubbed “a disaster.”

Troubles on and off the beam waited for Wolf to complete a neat 9.450 routine before springing themselves on Waverly Dolaman ’04, Lacy, Green, and Fong, all of whom fell from the bar.

“Of course, it would be best if nobody fell, but you just can’t have more than two falls and be competitive,” Jen Gold ’03 explained.

After the event, Pignatelli and Tonry called a team meeting, but ultimately no one could find a cause for Yale’s initial struggles.

Yale has traditionally dominated or at least competed for first place in the Ivy Classic. To many gymnastics fans and followers, Yale’s third-place finish among the four Ivy teams seemed the end of an era in Ivy gymnastics, but to the Yale team, it was just another bout of the bad luck they have suffered all season.

“I am absolutely disappointed,” Fong said. “We are the most talented team here, but when we can’t get it together for big meets like this one, our talent means nothing.”