After finishing fourth last year in the Ivy League, Yale gymastics added four athletes — Brianna Crisman ’15, Joyce Li ’15, Katherine Lucas ’15 and Morgan Traina ’15 — for the coming season and graduated only one senior. Four teammates interviewed said they hope a combination of the new competitors, a modified training style and a new assistant coach will help improve the team’s standing this season.
“I have more bodies, and that’s the big help,” head coach Barbara Tonry said. “If you don’t have enough kids to compete, you can’t win no matter what.”
Stephanie Goldstein ’13 added in an email that the new members will give the team more depth and that the current lineups for each event are “already looking competitive.”
Because the team only had 10 members last year, she said, often teammates would compete in events that were not their strongest.
She added that the new members are expected to help the team particularly in areas where the Bulldogs were weak last year, such as the uneven bars.
The freshmen have strong credentials on bars. Lucas, for example, placed second on bars at the Florida state championships in 2010, and Traina was California state champion on bars during her senior year of high school.
“The freshmen are doing great!” Goldstein said in an email. “They look especially strong on bars, which is an area that we struggled in last year.”
Mia Yabut ’12, the team captain, said Yale has consistently struggled to fill spots for all of its events.
But the size of the team this year, she added, should increase competition among the team members for places in the lineup for all events, and will allow the team to place only those members best suited for each event on the roster.
“Since I’ve been at Yale we’ve had a hard time filling spots on the lineup,” Yabut said, “[but this year] on every single event people will be competing for our spots on the lineup.”
More team members should also create a “buffer” for injuries, Maren Hopkins ’14 said. Unlike last year, if the team suffers a few injuries or sicknesses, it should still be able to produce a strong lineup for each event, Tonry added.
Tara Feld ’13 said in an email she thinks the Bulldogs have a shot at the Ivy League title if they compete at their highest potential. The Bulldogs last claimed the title in 2005.
“I certainly think we’re going to be giving everyone a run for their money for that Ivy League title,” Tonry added.
Goldstein said although she thought it was too early in the season to make any substantial predictions, the team will set its eyes on the title.
But Yabut added that winning the title will be a challenge. Even though Yale’s roster has expanded, there are Ivy League teams that are bigger. Yale has a harder time recruiting than other Ivies because Yale admissions does not guarantee acceptance for gymnasts early on in the admissions process, she added.
In order to make a strong showing in the Ivy League this year, the team has increased its fitness training. Gymnasts are working with strength and conditioning coaches three times a week in addition to conditioning with the gymnastics coaches, Goldstein said.
She added that the team is already seeing improvement of its strength and endurance in the gym.
Jason Vonk has stepped in as a new assistant coach this year. Vonk was previously the team program director and owner of Stars National Gymnastics Village in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“He is knowledgable, supportive and shows the same determination as we gymnasts do,” Feld said in an email.
So far this season, injuries have not been problematic. At this point, no one on the team has suffered a season-ending injury.
“We’ve already had our share of sprained ankles and strained muscles,” Goldstein explained, but “it’s nothing too serious.”
Yale gymnastics will compete in its first meet on Jan. 21, 2012, at Springfield College.