On April 5, Jennifer Pena ’04 kept a secret from her tae kwon do teammates.
Instead of letting a broken rib keep her from competing in the tae kwon do team’s annual tournament, Pena helped the Bulldogs to a fourth place finish out of 14 teams at Payne Whitney Gymnasium Saturday. It was not until after her sparring match that Pena informed her teammates of the injury.
The Elis competed well in both sparring and form events Saturday. The A1 sparring team, composed of Lucas Britanico ’04, Jonathan Kossak ’03 and Chanu Rhee ’02, finished second in its event.
At the day’s end, Yale trailed Harvard and Cornell by 20 points or less. MIT, however, dominated the top divisions and scored 445 points to Yale’s 270. The Beavers are atop the IVY/Northeast Collegiate Tae Kwon Do League this season.
Yale, on the other hand, is in a rebuilding year. After a second-place finish behind Cornell last season, the team will likely land in fifth or sixth place this season.
“We lost a lot of people to graduation last year,” said Joe Gecan ’03, who is president of the Yale Tae Kwon Do Club.
Saturday’s tournament gave the team a bright view of the future.
“The Yale Tournament provides us with a foundation for the following year because we don’t have to travel,” Vice President Jennifer Lee ’04 said.
Often, tae kwon do club members come just to watch the tournament, only to decide that they want to compete the following fall.
“Next year our team should do extremely well,” Lee said.
Though the team placed fourth overall Saturday, it placed in more events than any other school besides MIT. Scoring is weighted — more points are awarded to the more skilled competitors in the A division than to the winners in divisions B and C.
“The men’s A team has been consistent,” Lee said. “Our B and C teams have been doing so well.”
As Yale’s players continue to improve, they will likely score more points in the A division, Lee said.
Among the team’s leaders is Farley Neasman ’06, a converted karate player who has bounced between the A and B divisions this season.
“Farley does so well it’s frightening,” Lee said. Farley won second place in red-belt form competition Saturday and also sparred well in the A1 division.
While form competition is an individual event, sparring partners join in groups of three to face other teams. Yale’s A1 men’s team advanced through five rounds of sparring to take second place, losing to the University of Pennsylvania.
Kossak, a red belt who learned that he would compete in A1 only a day earlier, was pleased with his team’s performance.
“I just enjoy being able to fight with the other two guys,” Kossak said of black-belts Britanico and Rhee. “They’re very tough, tough guys.”
After cruising through the first several rounds, the final round was a struggle for Kossak.
“The last match, the other guy was way, way, way better than me — and he killed me,” he said.
Kossak and Pena were not the only examples of the team’s dedication. Jennifer Tran ’03 suffered a mild concussion and was sent on a stretcher to Yale-New Haven Hospital, only to return later in the day to fight again and win. A freshman competing in his first meet broke his finger and continued to fight.
From Lee’s perspective, the club will continue to flourish in the next two seasons.
“I can only see an upturn from here,” Lee said.