The Yale gymnastics squad nearly tied its record-setting team total against Ivy rival Penn on Sunday, thanks to solid routines by captain Morgan Traina ’15 and Tatiana Winkelman ’17, but ultimately fell 193.150–191.000 in heartbreaking fashion.
The Bulldogs earned top scores on both vault and bars, with Anna Merkuryev ’18 and Traina ending atop the leaderboard of those respective two events. However, it was not enough to overcome the 13 Quaker gymnasts, none of whom competed on all four apparatuses.
“Everyone is kind of in different spots right now, so the people who won those events are in good shape but everyone else needs to continue to work on getting the numbers again, getting the confidence,” Winkelman said. “Everyone in the lineup can hit [her] routine and do it consistently.”
One week after the team set a record for total points against University of New Hampshire, several of individual performers broke personal records against Penn.
Winkelman, who competed on bars and beam, set new career-bests on both events. She attributed her performance to the strength and depth of the team.
“Gymnastics is just a game of numbers, so more routines, more practice, means more confidence and bigger scores,” Winkelman said. “We have a deep lineup on bars. The great thing about that is we can push each other, knowing we have to fight for those spots. There’s friendly competition.”
Winkelman’s score of 9.575 was good for eighth on the event, with Traina’s score of 9.825 taking top billing on the apparatus.
Traina, who finished 0.35 points ahead of Merkuryev in the all-around, improved upon her performance at New Hampshire by nearly a full point. Merkuryev, in only her second career competition, reset her season-best marks with highs on vault and bars.
“Our routines were definitely cleaner and people were more confident than last meet,” Merkuryev said. “We also did a good job of keeping our energy level up throughout the meet, which helps the team a lot.”
Much of this energy came from the spectators. According to several of the gymnasts, the Penn meet coincided with a youth meet, so the Bulldogs competed in front of a larger audience.
The gymnasts were between 10 and 12, Winkelman said, and although they were from Philadelphia, they were just as excited to see the Yale girls.
“There were some little girls in the audience that were there to support UPenn’s team, but they enjoyed watching us so much that they asked for pictures with us and autographs,” Merkuryev said.
Next week, the freshman class will return to action after missing time due to injuries. Sloane Smith ’18 is expected to perform, but not compete, on floor and vault. Allison Bushman ’18, returning from a concussion, exhibited routines on Saturday but did not officially compete. Megan Ryan ’18 is still recovering from stress fractures in her shins, but might compete on bars.
Adding the freshmen into the lineup will help the team, according to Traina, because they bring unique abilities to the gym.
“The freshmen brought in a whole new set of skills, which was a lot of fun,” Traina said. “Especially coming out of club, they have a lot of skills that people on our team didn’t have before. It adds a little more diversity to our routines, which is great.”
In the meantime, the team will work on consistently hitting its routines.
But with classes canceled and Payne-Whitney Gym closed during Winter Storm Juno, the team might not practice on Tuesday. While Winkelman said that a day off would be helpful because it allows the gymnasts’ bodies a rest, she acknowledged that practice is key to the team’s performance.
“I think confidence is a big factor,” Winkelman said. “We’re only two weeks in, so doing those routines and getting those numbers under our belt is the most important thing right now.”
The gymnasts have their first home meet of the season on Saturday, when they host Bridgeport, Southern Connecticut State University and Rhode Island College in the Don Tonry Bulldog Invitational. The meet begins at 1 p.m.