The Yale gymnastics team posted a season-high point total at its first home meet of the season, placing second out of four teams at the competition that honored former Yale coach Don Tonry.
The team total of 191.375 marks the third consecutive meet in which the Elis have scored 190 points or more, putting them in excellent shape for postseason qualification. With an all-time program record of 194.900 points, Saturday’s final total was just three and a half points away from setting a new benchmark.
“It was the Don Tonry Invitational, and Don played a huge role on this team,” Brittany Sooksengdao ’15 said. “It was special to have a meet to honor him but we still have a lot more room to improve. That’s saying a lot, considering it was our highest team score. We continue to build but are still making mistakes.”
But despite the strong performance, Yale lost to Bridgeport by 2.075 points. The Elis did manage to finish ahead of Southern Connecticut State and Rhode Island College, who finished third and fourth, respectively.
The Bulldogs rebounded after a rocky start on vault, going six for six on their bar routines in what turned out to be Yale’s highest-scoring event of the day. After failing to land her vaults, captain Morgan Traina ’15 anchored a solid team performance on the apparatus with a perfect landing on her bars dismount.
Yale’s total score of 48.325 points on bars is also a season-high.
“All year we have been working on funneling in and out of our routines,” Anella Anderson ’17 wrote in a message to the News. “We really want to try to end our routines as soon as we leave the landing mat and put whatever happened behind us. I think that really helped us on Saturday because everybody was able to leave vault behind them and move on to the next event.”
The invitational was also the third consecutive meet in which the Bulldogs scored more than 48 points on beam. Sooksengdao led the team with a 9.750 on the event. Though this is only one-tenth of a point off her personal record, Sooksengdao is looking to upgrade her routine by increasing the difficulty level, she said, and will be adding one additional back layout to a pass next week against Springfield College.
Sooksengdao’s routine was preceded by Anderson’s performance, which featured one of the meet’s most difficult tricks on beam.
Anderson, who scored a 9.550, threw a front aerial to arabesque sequence on beam, an immensely difficult trick that requires a gymnast to turn a no-handed cartwheel, land on one foot and extend the other leg behind her — all on a four-inch balance beam. The trick is called the Liukin, named after American gymnast Nastia Liukin, who won the all-around title at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“After seeing Nastia Liukin compete it in the 2008 Olympics I fell in love with it and started working it,” Anderson wrote. “I have been competing it for the past six years and it has almost become my signature move. The Liukin is a difficult skill because it is a blind landing and it ends on only one foot.”
Because of this, Anderson said, the move has the highest difficulty level. Only a few gymnasts compete it in the NCAA, but Anderson is the only athlete who adds an additional front aerial before the trick, according to her.
The Bulldogs finished their day on floor exercise. Traina, who sprained an ankle three days before the meet, sat out the event, allowing Allison Bushman ’18 to compete.
The invitational was Bushman’s debut as a Bulldog. Previously, Bushman had performed exhibition routines while recovering from a concussion she sustained in early January. On Saturday, however, she posted a strong result, scoring 9.450 on vault, 9.625 on bars and 9.525 on floor.
“It was really nice to actually be competing again,” Bushman said. “I sustained a concussion right before our first meet against [the University of New Hampshire] so that was slightly frustrating, but I’m glad to be back and competing for Yale. I think the highlight of my performance was competing bars. I really like swinging bars and after hitting my dismount, I felt this fantastic rush.”
Traina led the Bulldogs on bars with a score of 9.750. The scores were so tight that Bushman, 0.125 points behind, actually tied for fourth on the apparatus. Tatiana Winkelman ’17 finished second in the event with a 9.675.
In addition to fourth on bars, Bushman had the second-highest score on floor for the Bulldogs. Event specialist Camilla Opperman ’16, who also competed on vault, anchored the team with a high-flying routine that scored 9.625 points. Opperman, the ECAC Specialist of the Week two weeks ago for her performance against UNH, took the Bulldogs’ top score on floor.
“That was the first time I actually did the correct routine,” Opperman said. “The first few meets, I had these spur of the moment adjustments, when I switched passes. But the week leading up to this meet, in practice, I was hitting it. I was confident. I mean, I was a little disappointed with the score, but that’s the subjectivity of the sport.”
Yale’s all-around competitors finished well too, as Joyce Li ’15 and Anna Merkuryev ’18 came in second and third, respectively.
The Bulldogs next take on Springfield at home on Saturday. The competition, which is the team’s senior meet, begins at 1 p.m. in Payne Whitney.